Ver. 18-22. Mark hath the same, Mar_12:15-17. So hath Luke, Luk_20:23-26. Our Saviour, saith Luke, perceived their craftiness, how subtlety they went about to entrap him. He calls them to show him the tribute money. The Jews had two sorts of money, shekels and half shekels, which was money proper to them, and Roman coin, pence and sesterces. Their tribute was paid in this coin. Accordingly they bring unto him a penny, a Roman penny, as much in value as seven pence halfpenny in our coin; which it seems was the poll money, which the Romans exacted of every head. The coining of money was always looked upon as an act of sovereign power, hence the usurpation of it is made so criminal. Most princes use to have their effigies stamped upon their coin, and some inscription about it, with their names, and some words expressive of their dominion over such places where their coin is current; so as the admission of a prince’s coin as current amongst a people was a testimony of their owning and subjection to such a prince. Such an image and superscription this piece of money had; upon which our Saviour concludes,
Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. Although Caesar be a usurper, yet God hath given you into his hands, you have owned him by accepting his coin as current amongst you. His right and God’s right are two distinct things. Religion doth not exempt you from your civil duties, and obedience to princes, in things wherein they have a power to command. Princes have power to impose tributes upon their subjects, for the maintenance and upholding of the civil government. Let Caesar have his due, and let God have his right. You are a company of hypocrites, who by this question would make me believe you have a great zeal for God and his rights, and that you would not pay taxes that you might assert God’s right over you; this is your preference, but indeed your design is to try me, if you can persuade me, by any words of mine, to encourage you to any sedition, or acts of disloyalty to your civil governors. I see no reason for it; Caesar hath his right, and God hath his rights; you may give them both their rights, and so you ought to do. God’s kingdom is of another nature than the kingdoms of the world. His law forbiddeth no civil rights. Thus our Saviour answers their question so as he maketh them to condemn themselves, if, owning the civil magistrate’s power, they did not give him his rights, and so as neither Caesar nor yet the people had any just cause of exception against him for his words. This answer surprises them, they marvel and go their way, having played their game and got nothing.