Mark 12:13-17 (ESV)
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
The religious leaders continued to pressure Jesus, hoping to trip him up and cause him to say something that would make him seem to be a false teacher. They sent the Pharisees and Herodians, who approached him and actually addressed him as “teacher.” Then they added that they “knew” he was honest and didn’t care about what people thought as he taught the truth of God. After this, they planted the trick question on Jesus: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” “Is it lawful,” referred to the Law of God. Did God want them to give their hard-earned money to the pagan Roman government? The goal of the question was to paint Jesus into a corner. If he said “yes,” the people would be disappointed, and if he said “no,” Rome would be angry. Either way, they thought Jesus would lose this one. Jesus asked them to bring him a coin. He noted Caesar’s image on it, and basically said “give it to the one to whom it belongs.” But he added, “pay both Rome and God. Give Rome the coins they want, and give God the worship he is due.” This response silenced the opponents.
One aspect of the account that’s so incredibly sad is the way the Pharisees and the Herodians used flattery in their attempt to trick Jesus. They remarked on his honesty and his concern for God’s will, all in an effort to trap him so they could discredit him. Like Jesus, we should be cautious when people flatter us. We can quickly decide that those showering us with praise, love us and want the very best for us, but some use words of praise as part of their strategy to catch us off guard before they harm us. It’s easy for a woman to speak wonderful things about us, but what’s more important is what she ends up doing in the end. The old saying “Actions speak louder than words,” holds true in this passage and the same applies to us. We should be careful to live in sync with the generous words we speak to and even pile on one another. Choose to make your goal today to keep your behavior as consistent as possible with your words. Mean what you say, and say what you mean.