Truth and flattery with a hook
Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. – Matthew 22:16
20 Watching for their opportunity, the leaders sent spies pretending to be honest men. They tried to get Jesus to say something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he would arrest Jesus.
21 “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others think. You teach the way of God truthfully.
22 Now tell us – is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
23 He saw through their trickery and said,
24 “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied.
25 “Well then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”
26 So they failed to trap him by what he said in front of the people. Instead, they were amazed by his answer, and they became silent.
What is entrapment? Entrapment happens when government agents, officials, or law enforcement officers coerce or induce someone into committing a crime that he or she is not previously disposed to commit. In American courtrooms, claiming entrapment is a legal defense strategy that can be used when facing criminal charges. It attempts to establish that the official/s involved originated the idea of the crime and induced the accused to engage in it.
The rationale underlying this defense strategy is to deter law enforcement officers from engaging in reprehensible conduct that results in criminal activity.
The religious leaders, who were often offended and angered by the Lord Jesus Christ, came up with the scheme to entrap Him. Their bait was flattery. They had schemed together and then attempted to elicit a response that would be construed as undermining Roman law and authority. The Scriptures are clear that flattery often is used to lay a trap for others.
Proverbs 29:5 To flatter friends is to lay a trap for their feet.
The entire episode is ironic. They flatter and praise Jesus as a bold and courageous prophet and teacher. They assert that He fearlessly proclaims the Father’s truth without compromise. Further, He refuses to defer to anyone. He is not interested in the praise of men, but only in the praise of His Father in heaven (John 12:43).
“Jesus immediately saw through their scheme. He knew that their real purpose was not to get an answer to a question, but to try to trap Him” (Wiersbe). He makes a brilliant counter move that left his inquirers dumbfounded and speechless.
REFLECT & PRAY
“The money belongs to Caesar, and you belong to God. Let the world have its coins, but let God have His creatures” (MacDonald).
Father thank You that You have provided a reliable source of information regarding true Truth. Encourage me to stand tall, not to be entrapped, and to proclaim Your Truth accurately and without bias.
In their attempts to entrap the Lord Jesus Christ, the religious leaders actually expressed great insight into His character and teaching.
Luke 20:21 You speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God.
This exchange provided a teachable moment. The Lord Jesus Christ took the opportunity to teach the crowds who were listening to several important spiritual truths. His answer was succinct and sagacious.
Some important background information helps ferret out the meaning of His explanation. It provides a greater understanding of what the Lord Jesus Christ said. “Each ruler minted his own coins and put his own image on them. The ‘penny’ (denarius) had Caesar’s image on it, so it belonged to Caesar. ‘Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,’ was His reply. ‘And give back to God what belongs to God” (Wiersbe).
The point is simple and yet profound. There is a clear separation between the Father and Caesar. Ultimately, the coins belong to Caesar. Give him what is due to him. But at the same time, give to the Father God what is His. People belong to the Father, those who claim to follow Him are to give Him what is due to Him.
But there is more.
The phrase “you tell the truth,” could be rendered “you are an honest man,” “you are a man of integrity,” or “you are a truthful man” (UBS).
The phrase “truly teach the way of God,” could be translated “you tell each person clearly and plainly how he must live according to God’s will,” “you really do teach the life that God wishes us to live,” “you teach the truth about God’s will for man,” or “what you teach about God’s laws (or, will) is the truth (or, correct)” (UBS).
The enemies of the Lord Jesus Christ recognize that He spoke true truth. How ironic, that they themselves did not.
The phrase “you show no partiality” or “you are not partial to any,” is literally “you care for no man” in Greek. To express the idea more clearly, it can be translated
“you do not allow yourself to be influenced by people,” “you are not swayed by men’s opinion of you,” or “You don’t care what people think” (UBS).
The Lord Jesus Christ stood tall and boldly proclaimed what the Father desires people to know and do. He is a person of character and integrity and always spoke the Truth regardless of what people thought of Him. He can be relied upon to say what is right and truthful about the things of God. In summary, “he was sincere, faithful to the truth, fearless, and no respecter of persons.” (Morris).