In an attempt to trap Jesus there was an alliance formed between the Pharisees who were strong Nationalists, supporting a Jewish nation and the Herodians, Jews supporting the Roman rule of the Herods. They visited Jesus and posed the question in verse 17 “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? ” As you can quickly recognize, this is a loaded question because, if Jesus says “yes” the Pharisees will regard him as a supporter of Rome, and untrue to the Jewish Nation. If he says “no”, the Herodians will regard him as a traitor and have him executed. (NIV footnote 22:15-17)
Jesus turns this attempts to trap him, into a moment to teach the Pharisees and the Herodians by taking the high ground. He doesn’t advocate ignoring one or the other and gives a “yes and yes” answer in verse 21 and says ….. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.” In short, he reminds them that there are two kingdoms. There was the kingdom of Caesar with earthly rules, where all needed to give as required, or face the consequences. Likewise, there is the Kingdom of God that is often ignored, and has its’ consequences for ignoring. One of the reasons I feel we often ignore the kingdom of God is because, we don’t understand the consequences of ignoring the kingdom of God. In many cases there is no immediate consequence. By avoiding immediate consequences we feel there are no consequences at all, but eventually the consequences catch up with us. However, we must all admit that as soon as the consequence of ignoring Caesar or God hits, and trouble visits out door, we run back immediately to the kingdom of God for help.
Jesus reminds both groups that as Caesar had a standard, God has a standard. In this text, both groups of men were Jews who were there very knowledgeable of the Scriptures, noting that only the Old Testament existed at that time. They were very familiar with and understood Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. Does it sound familiar to you? Of course it does because it is the foundation for Jesus’ statement “So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after these things, and your heavenly Father knows you need them. But, seek first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “ Matthew 6:31-33. In other words for Christians, seeking God is the standard to all life. Seek the higher ground. Seek the “Jesus Way” first as Jesus was the representative of his Father in heaven.
The strange thing about this text is that in attempting to trap Jesus, the Pharisees and Herodians had to be complimentary. “They had to admit, however unwillingly, that Jesus was candid, faithful in speaking God’s truth, fearless before any man, whether a mob or king. “ (TIB Vol 7, pg 517-18). In Matthew 22:16, The King James Version states “… Master, we know that though art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man; for thou regardest not the person of men”. In the same verse, The Revised Standard Version says “….’Teacher we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men. ‘…. However, I like the way the New International Version shows it in saying “….Teacher, they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance to the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are….” Here, the key is “a man of integrity”.
In this passage, the English word integrity is translated from the Greek word alethes. The Greek word alethes, when it translates to the English word integrity, has five attributes or descriptions and they are True, Genuine, Reliable, Trustworthy and Valid. A highlight of these attributes in Jesus, gives us examples of how we as Christians can strive to be “Jesus Like”.
- True – Jesus was true. There is nothing false about Jesus. In John 1:6-9, The Apostle John wrote about, Jesus to distinguish Jesus from John the Baptist. The Apostle said “There is a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The TRUE light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. “ Who is the TRUE (non false) light? Of course it is Jesus.
- Genuine or Actual – Jesus is true with nothing false about him as he was the ACTUAL Son of God. John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” Who was the Genuine/Actual Son of God? Of Course, Jesus.
- Reliable – Jesus can be trusted because he is not only God’s Son but God’s agent. Jesus is reliable because his source is reliable. In John 8:26 Jesus said, “I Have much to say about judgment of you. But he who sent me is RELIABLE, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.” Who had reliable information because he had a reliable source? Of course, Jesus.
- Trustworthy – Able to be trusted to do or provide what is needed. Who can you depend on in a time of need or a time of joy? Who is there whenever you call on his name? Of course, Jesus. Have you ever depended on Jesus and He let you down? No!
- Valid – Valid is the quality of being officially acceptable. Jesus is officially accepted as God because He is God. John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John the apostle opens his gospel with a clarification of who Jesus is. Jesus is the official, factual son of God. John said it, the Bible consistently proves it and I believe it.
Referring to Jesus as a man of integrity was meant to be a trap. But, He is a True, Genuine, Reliable, Trustworthy and Valid Jesus. With the attributes of True, Genuine, Reliable, Trustworthy and Valid, we can only reach one conclusion. Jesus on Earth, was definitely a man of integrity. The Pharisees and Herodians, in their attempts to be tricky, were more correct that they ever knew. Jesus was and had to be an earthy “man of intergrity” because, He is in fact the God of integrity. Psalm 118:29 says “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; and his love endures forever.” The God of integrity is the source of honesty, the source of morality, the source of righteousness, the source of truthfulness and the source of sincerity. Jesus, the son of God was honest, moral, righteous, trustworthy and sincere. He was not only full of integrity, He is the God of integrity. He is the only one that Father God accepted as a “purification for our sins” (Hebrews 1:3). He is the Jesus, crucified, died, buried and arose from the dead. Jesus was a man of integrity because he is the God of integrity.
1. Edward W. Goodrick and John R Kohlenberger III, The Strongest NIV Exhaustive Concordance, Zondervan, 1993 2.The NIV Study Bible, The Zonvervan Corporation, 1995