on Matthew 22 :21
They say unto him, Caesars - The image was the head of the emperor; the superscription, his titles. Julius Caesar was the first who caused his image to be struck on the Roman coin. Tiberius was emperor at this time.
Render therefore unto Caesar - The conclusion is drawn from their own premises. You acknowledge this to be Caesar's coin; this coin is current, in your land; the currency of this coin shows the country to be under the Roman government; and your acknowledgment that it is Caesar's proves you have submitted. Don't therefore be unjust; but render to Caesar the things which you acknowledge to be his; at the same time, be not impious, but render unto God the thing's which belong to God.
This answer is full of consummate wisdom. It establishes the limits, regulates the rights, and distinguishes the jurisdiction of the two empires of heaven and earth. The image of princes stamped on their coin denotes that temporal things belong all to their government. The image of God stamped on the soul denotes that all its faculties and powers belong to the Most High, and should be employed in his service.
But while the earth is agitated and distracted with the question of political rights and wrongs, the reader will naturally ask, What does a man owe to Caesar? - to the civil government under which he lives? Our Lord has answered the question - That which IS Caesar's. But what is it that is Caesar's? 1. Honour. 2. Obedience. And 3.Tribute.
1. The civil government under which a man lives, and by which he is protected, demands his honor and reverence.
2. The laws which are made for the suppression of evil doers, and the maintenance of good order, which are calculated to promote the benefit of the whole, and the comfort of the individual should be religiously obeyed.
3. The government that charges itself with the support and defense of the whole, should have its unavoidable expenses, however great, repaid by the people, in whose behalf they are incurred; therefore we should pay tribute.
But remember, if Caesar should intrude into the things of God, coin a new creed, or broach a new Gospel, and affect to rule the conscience, while he rules the state, in these things Caesar is not to be obeyed; he is taking the things of God, and he must not get them. Give not therefore God's things to Caesar, and give not Caesar's things to God. That which belongs to the commonwealth should, on no account whatever, be devoted to religious uses; and let no man think he has pleased God, by giving that to charitable or sacred uses which he has purloined from the state. The tribute of half a shekel, which the law, (Exodus 30:13, Exodus 30:14), required every person above twenty years of age to pay to the temple, was, after the destruction of the temple, in the time of Vespasian, paid into the emperor's exchequer. This sum, Melancthon supposes, amounted annually to Three Tons Of Gold.
on Matthew 22 :21
Render, therefore, to Caesar ... - Caesar's image and name on the coin proved that it was his.
It was proper, therefore, to give it back to him when he called for it. But while this was done, Jesus took occasion to charge them, also, to give to God what he claimed. This may mean either,
1. The annual tribute due to the temple service, implying that paying tribute to Caesar did not free them from the obligation to do that; or,
2. That they should give their hearts, lives, property, and influence all to God, as his due.
on Matthew 22 :21