The question of Jesus' Authority: Taxes


The question of Jesus' Authority: Taxes

How it might have led to conflict :-

  • This story shows the escalating conflict that was building up between the religious authorities and Jesus, whom they regarded as a dangerous troublemaker.  On this occasion, the Pharisees had joined forces with a political group loyal to King Herod.  Again a question is asked of Jesus in an effort to trick him into saying something incriminating.  Once again, Jesus inflames their anger.
  • The example of Jesus outwitting the authorities and refusing to answer their question directly simply adds to the tension between them.
  • The Pharisees had a problem with paying taxes to the Romans as it acknowledged their authority. The Romans worshipped their Emperor as a God, they had a picture of him on their coins and the Jews were in danger of getting involved in idol worship through paying taxes.  Jesus is leaving the interpretation of his message to the individual, his answer neither offends the Pharisees or Herodians – although they would have been very annoyed at his answer.
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The question of Jesus' Authority: Taxes

The significance for Christians today, particularly with reference to current issues of social and community cohesion :-

  • The UK is a multi-faith society, and this passage shows that we must all live in harmony together, each respecting the relevant laws and customs of others.
  • Some believe that it is suggesting Christians should not mix religion and politics.  Or perhaps some Christians will suggest that it means we should ensure that our religion influences our politics.  We should make the Christian message (the Golden Rule and “Love thy neighbour” to be at the heart of our politics.)
  • Some Christians might suggest that this passage is actually saying we should follow the rules of society and therefore do things such as pay for taxes even if some of that money goes towards something morally wrong like abortion clinics.  Whilst the Christian may object to the law, they would rather campaign for a change in the law than disrupt it.
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The question of Jesus' Authority: Taxes

  • Some Christians will interpret this passage to say that we should always obey God first if there is a clash between our law and the law of God. This raises interesting question; does it make breaking the law acceptable? 
  • This passage will have special meaning for Christians living in a foreign country. It helps them decide whether they should take part in civic life or fight to protect their adopted country. The story is telling them that they do have a duty to support the state.
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