The Picture on the Penny
Updated: May 29, 2019
Daily Reading and Devotional from the Gospels
13 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. 14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. 16 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.
The very pro-Roman Herodians and the extremely Religious Pharisees could agree on little, yet their hatred of Christ united them to approach Jesus in order to set a trap. How can they sway public opinion against Jesus? Trap him on taxes. Nobody likes taxes. Well, some people and politicians like taxes, as long as somebody else is paying them. Nobody like paying taxes. The people in the times of Christ were no different, except they had more resentment over paying theirs because they financed a cruel occupying force. The plan of the Pharisees and Herodians, if they can make Jesus go on record against the paying of tribute then they can report him to the Romans as an insurrectionist, if he supports the practice then his popularity will decline. Either way, they win. In their mind, the trap was fool proof! Perhaps it was, until Jesus said, “Bring me a penny” and pointed out the picture on it.
Whose picture was on the penny?
Ole Abe Lincoln right? No!
What the Bible calls a penny was actually the Roman denarius, a coin worth about the average person’s daily wage. I guess they participated in the Roman economic system they wanted Jesus to speak against since they were able to produce the coin. Jesus then asked them a simple question, “whose is this image and superscription?” Whose picture is on the penny? Instead of Honest Abe, Tiberius Caesar’s ugly mug was on one side of the coin. “In God We Trust” was nowhere to be found on it, instead were words of praise for Caesar. When they acknowledged Caesar’s image, Jesus said those famous words, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”
“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”
Those brilliant words were neither the denial nor the endorsement of Roman authority for which Jesus’ enemies were hoping. Jesus did teach that God expects his people to pay their taxes even to a government as wrong as the Romans. The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote these words in Romans 13:6 "For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." We believers have an obligation to practice good citizenship here because of our dual citizenship in Heaven.
In Luke’s gospel we learn that one accusation these enemies of Jesus brought against him at the trial before Pilate was that he forbid the paying of taxes. (Luke 23:2) Can you believe that blatant lie? We just read that the opposite. I have come to see that people will say anything about the people with whom they disagree. You can't believe everything you hear or read without investigation. Be smart enough to be wary of words.
“Render…to God the things that are God’s”
We should render unto God the things that are God’s. Jesus’ logic was that since the coin had the image of Caesar upon it, then it belonged to Caesar. Does God have his image on anything? The answer is yes! Genesis 1:27 "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them."
God made mankind in his image!
I guess the real question is not, "whose image is on the penny, but whose image is on the people?
Every single one of us were created in the image of God. We have his image stamped upon our being. The image of God is what gives every single person intrinsic value. While we do know this image has been been marred by sin, we understand that it is still there. So, look in the mirror, see that person made in the image of God and render unto the Lord what is due.