Watching for a chance to get him, they sent spies who posed as honest inquirers, hoping to trick him into saying something that would get him in trouble with the law. So they asked him, "Teacher, we know that you're honest and straightforward when you teach, that you don't pander to anyone but teach the way of God accurately. Tell us: Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
He knew they were laying for him and said, "Show me a coin. Now, this engraving, who does it look like and what does it say?"
"Caesar," they said.
Jesus said, "Then give Caesar what is his and give God what is his."
Try as they might, they couldn't trap him into saying anything incriminating. His answer caught them off guard and left them speechless.
Last Wednesday night during Putting the New Testament In Its Place I did a whole historical breakdown of this passage. I want to encourage you to join me for that time. I host a Zoom classroom for discussion and we also live stream the class at 7 pm on Wednesday nights on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Twitch.
As I process this passage this morning, the thing that struck me is the way the religious leaders approached Jesus. They effusively praise him and tell him how great he is. This was a pretty significant change in tact from many of their earlier interactions with him. I mean, in verse 19, we learned that they were so angry they wanted to kill him on the spot.
Jesus spoke to his disciples about being crafty and wise to the way of the world. Here, we see Jesus live that out. He doesn’t get caught up in their praise of him. Jesus sees through their baloney. As a result he’s not taken by surprise at their attempt to trick him.
It seems to me that many of us in the American church need to be more aware of the intentions behind too much flattery. When we are flattered we are quick to trust and this leaves us in a place too often where we find ourselves with a subverted faith. All of a sudden we are yoked with people who have an anti-Christ agenda. Then our pride gets in the way and we find ourselves unwilling to say, “I was wrong about this.” As a result we double down and go deeper into the hole.
If we are going to maintain our holiness we will need to learn to be aware of too much flattery. The tickling of our ears, while it feels good for the moment, leaves us in a place where we are vulnerable to be taken advantage of and then we wake up and come to ourselves finding that we have left the narrow path well behind.
Jesus didn’t get used.
Jesus didn’t get tricked.
Jesus flipped the script and left them speechless.
I am hoping to be more like Jesus.
To do so means being present and more aware of what is happening around me. I need to listen and pay attention. Living like Jesus requires an intentional hearing of people in my life. It demands a mindfulness to the moment that I often don’t have. My mind is often somewhere in the future and rarely in the moment.
How about you? Do you get easily suckered by flattery only to find out you were being used?