Pay Your Taxes, but Give Yourself to Jesus: Mark 12:13-17

The image of President George Washington on the US $1.00 bill can be a good reminder about the One to Whom we must give ourselves. This is Jesus’ point in Mark 12:13-17.


Pharisees and Herodians, polar opposites, conspired together to trap Jesus, a favorite outdoor sport of theirs. Assuming they would jam Jesus into a lose-lose predicament, they said: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Mark 12:15).

 Should We Pay Taxes?

If Jesus answered ‘yes, pay the taxes” He’d look like a compromiser, betraying the patriotic Jewish approach; but if He said “no, don’t pay taxes” Jesus would be in rebellion against Rome and its emperor, Caesar. At last, Jesus is trapped, without an escape, right? Well, not so fast.

 After securing a coin from them, Jesus asked, “whose image is this and whose inscription?” They answer correctly, “Caesar’s image” (Mark 12:16).

 Jesus’ rejoinder reframes the issue and places His enemies into a trap. “Then give back to Caesar what belongs to him, and give back to God what belongs to Him” (Mark 12:17). Rightful ownership decides whether we are to pay or not.

 The coin bore the image of the ruling government’s head of state: Caesar. Caesar’s image is proof of rightful ownership. Give back what is rightfully Caesar’s; pay your taxes. It’s not a political question. It’s an ownership issue.

 What Belongs to God?

But here is where Bible study baloney begins. Jesus said, “give back to Caesar what belongs to him {taxes}, and give back to God what belongs to Him.” That means, give God some of your coin, right? Baloney.

Viewing Jesus’ words through the lens of Israel’s Scripture avoids cutting slices of Bible baloney and guides us to to the beef of Jesus’ answer.

Jesus intentionally used the word “image” (ή είκών). That’s our clue. Human beings are made in the image of God. “So God created humankind in his own own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (LXX, Gen 1:27; ή είκών). The coin bore Caesar’s image and showed its rightful owner. But men and women bear God’s image, showing their rightful owner. People—made in God’s image—rightfully belong to Him.

 By fully giving ourselves back to God, we are returning to our rightful owner. God is our rightful owner. Our creation in His image—indicating rightful ownership--settles the case.

 Jesus is the Visible Image of God

But there’s more beef for our supper plate. God has an image, a visible expression of an invisible Deity. Jesus is the visible image (ή είκών) of the invisible God. “He [Jesus] is the image (ή είκών) of the invisible God…” (Colossians 1:15). So, to be returned to our rightful owner--Jesus, we must fully give ourselves to Him by faith. We rightfully belong to Jesus in whose image we are made. Ownership decides to whom we belong. The image settle the case.

 Pay Your Taxes, but Give Yourself to Jesus

Should we pay our taxes? Yes. The image of President Washington on the $1.00 bill reminds us of its rightful ownership. But it is also a good reminder to Whom we belong. Have you given yourself to Jesus? You were made in His image. So, He is your rightful owner. Why not return to your rightful owner and fully give yourself to Him right now? Motivated by pure love, He gave His life for you on a cross. Give back to Jesus what belongs to Him: you.

Then, with millions of others, you can confidently say,

Now I belong to Jesus,

Jesus belongs to me;

Not for the years of time alone,

but for eternity.

Tim Cole