GIVE UNTO CAESAR THAT WHICH BELONGS TO CAESAR
5. Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, what thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a penny And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they say unto Him, Caesar's. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. When they heard these words, they marvelled, and left Him, and went their way (Matthew, 22:15-22; Mark, 12:13-17).
6. The question that was asked of Jesus was motivated by the fact that the Jews, who abominated the tribute imposed on them by the Romans, had made the payment of this tribute a religious question. Numerous parties had been set up against this tax. So this payment constituted a point of irritation amongst them at that time. If this had not been the case there would have been no point in the question which was asked of Jesus: "Is it licit for us to pay or not to pay this tribute to Caesar?" There had been a trap set by this question because those who had put it expected the reply to go against either the Roman authority or the dissident Jews. But Jesus, 'who understood their malice,' got round this difficulty and gave them a lesson in justice by saying that to each one should be given what was due to them. (see INTRODUCTION, under the sub-title: THE PUBLICANS.)
7. However, we should not understand the words: "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar," in a restrictive or absolute manner. As in everything that Jesus taught, this is a general principle which has been summarized into a practical and more customary form, taken from a certain circumstance. This principle is the consequence of the other one in which we should do to others as we would have them do to us. It condemns every kind of moral or material damage which might be caused to another, as well as all disregard of their interests. It prescribes respect for the rights of each person, as each one desires that they be respected. It extends as well to the fulfilment of our obligations towards our family, society and authority, just as much as for individuals in general.