Five Minute Bible Study: Divided Loyalties?
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
by Pastor Kent
Since we are in the week of the Fourth of July, I decided to give my brief take on interpreting Mark 14:13-17 - the episode where the Herodians and Pharisees (with different theologies and political views) join forces to try to discredit Jesus by asking their famous "no-win" question - "It it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them or should we not?"
Jesus' nuanced and clever answer after acknowledging Emperor Tiberius' image on the denarius is of course "Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's (the things that belong to the emperor), and to God the things that are God's." Some interpret that to mean that as Christians we must have divided loyalties and give governing authorities a certain portion, perhaps roughly equal, to the devotion and loyalty we give to God. I am quite confident that is not what Jesus meant!
Instead, by referencing the word "image" he knows his Jewish hearers will immediately be reminded of Genesis chapter 1 which proclaims all people are made in God's own image. Therefore while the Roman coinage which has the emperor's image properly belongs to the emperor, we human beings in our entirety were made in God's image and thus we owe everything we have and are to God alone!! (our ultimate love, loyalty, and worship)