The gladiator’s paycheck
Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God. – Luke 20:25
15 The Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested.
16 They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites.
17 Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me?
19 Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin,
20 he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
22 His reply amazed them, and they went away.
Constantius II was the son of Emperor Constantine the Great. In AD 337, with the death of his father Constantine, he ascended to the throne and became Emperor at the age of 20. Constantius II was a devout follower of Arian Christianity and continued his father’s work to establish Christianity as the religion of the Roman Empire.
During his reign, Constantius II had bronze coins minted. The coin came to be called the “Gladiator’s Paycheck.” They were used for everyday transactions as well as for the payment of wages. They were the “silver dollars” of their day.
On one side of the coin, a likeness of Emperor Constantius II was stamped. The other side depicted a struggle between two gladiators. One warrior is on horseback while the other raises his spear.
Surrounding this iconic scene is the Latin inscription: Happy Days are Here Again (Fel Temp Reparatio). It commemorated the 1100th anniversary of the founding of Rome.
REFLECT & PRAY
There are two important takeaways. “Obedience to God’s will is not compromised by letting Caesar have money which bears his name” (Bruce). There are limits on what belongs to Caesar. When conflicts arise, We must obey God rather than any human authority (Acts 5:29).
Father I love You. I want my life to reflect my loyalty, devotion, and worship to You.
Luke 20:25 Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and render to God what belongs to God.
In His response, Lord Jesus Christ clearly states that there is a dichotomy between what belongs within the realm of civil government and what belongs within God’s realm. Both realms exist at the same time. Note that the Lord Jesus Christ does not tell us what belongs in each realm.
However, the Lord Jesus Christ delineates a principle by which children of the King are to live. We are to render to Caesar what is due to him. But also give to the Father what is due to Him.
The Greek verb translated as render or give is apodidomi. Apodidomi is the term used for giving back something to somebody. It means to give or pay what is due, with the recipient is entitled to receive.
It is difficult to accept the fact that all authority on planet Earth is delegated from the Father. Some have used their authority and dreadful and heinous ways.
This whole conversation was a ruse, a trap. It was an attempt to get the Lord Jesus Christ to incriminate himself and thus be labeled as an enemy of Rome. He saw right through their flattery and evil intentions. He spoke with such stunning insight and wisdom that His adversaries were left stunned and speechless.
The Jewish people were under Roman authority. They were granted both privileges and responsibilities. With the one comes the other. Many were citizens of Rome. When people accept Caesar’s currency and make use of it in everyday life, then they also accept Caesar’s authority. Therefore they are bound by Caesar’s right to impose taxes.
However, there is a larger and more important question. What are children of the King supposed to render to their King? The answer is not spelled out in the passage. First-century culture provides some understanding. In the Roman Empire, the idea of citizenship was extremely important. Those with Roman citizenship were granted special privileges. These privileges were not available to those that lived in the Empire but were not citizens
Philippians 3:20 We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.
The Greek word translated as citizen or citizenship is politeuma. Politeuma is only used once in the entire New Testament. The people of Philippi were Roman citizens and benefited from all the rights and privileges gained from it. Furthermore, as children of the King, they possessed dual citizenship. They were also citizens of heaven.
We do not owe the government the same allegiance we owe God. The Father alone is owed our worship and our loyalty.
All that the Father has done for the children of the King was bestowed because of His grace, mercy, kindness, and love. We could not earn our citizenship and adoption into His family. It is priceless. As such, we could never pay for it. Therefore, the Father freely gave to us all our blessings without cost. We are not indebted to the Father for what He freely gave us.
What then do we render unto God?
We do not owe the Father anything. But because we love Him, we choose to render everything to the Father. Our responsibilities are derived from our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
John 14:15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.
1 John 5:1-3
1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has become a child of God. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too.
2 We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commandments.
3 Loving God means keeping his commandments, And his commandments are not burdensome.
We pledge our spiritual allegiance to Him: our love, our loyalty, our devotion, our worship, our lives. Such a sacred resolution was demonstrated by the signers of the Declaration of Independence.
The 56 signers of the Declaration made a solemn, bold, courageous commitment when they added their signatures to the Declaration. “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”
When children of the King truly love Him, we are willing to give our lives to Him. We do so out of love for Him and not because we owe Him an unmanageable debt. When we love Him, we obey His commandments. We love Him because He first loved us. Our love for Him should be the driving behind everything we do.
© Dr. H 2022