Mark 12:13 Then they sent to (Jesus) some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? 15 Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” 16 And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.
First there is an attempt to kiss up to Jesus in v.14. Of course, they’re trying to set him up to say the wrong thing and discredit him in front of his disciples. But Jesus isn’t playing that game and calls them out, “Why are you putting me to the test?” A close friend and colleague Louise Johnson wrote an insightful (and brief) comment on this story which I’ll share below:
“In a way, Jesus sidesteps the question about paying the tax. It is a small question in light of his earlier commands to give everything (lose your life for the sake of the kingdom). Discipleship does not get lost in this kind of debate. It is the wrong question and the answer is that it all belongs to God.”
Lord forgive us when we spend our time arguing over details and lose sight of our mission to make disciples. Amen.