Matthew 22:18 – But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?” NIV
It is interesting how some people will figure out ways to “trap” God or Jesus in the “prison of their minds.” This was the case with the Pharisees that Jesus had ticked off in the Temple; so they thought that they would “trap” Him with a question in which either answer could get Jesus in trouble. The plot:
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:15-17 – NIV)
If Jesus said it was right (lawful) to pay taxes to the occupying Roman government, the Zealots and their sympathizers would be upset and might want to kill Him. If Jesus said, not to pay taxes, they could accuse Him before Pilate for sedition against Rome. The question indicates that Jesus knew their motives. He wanted them to realize that He understood the game they were playing. His answer is a classic:
“Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:19-22 – NIV)
Jesus never directly answered their question about whether it was right or lawful; because it was a trap. He did state the obvious. If you are using the Roman coinage under Roman rule, then the Roman government can ask for some of it back. However, don’t mix that up with what God wants your to do or God’s claim on your life.
Some lessons for me in answering questions because I like to be the “answer man.”: I don’t have to answer questions that want to “trap” me between what someone considers two extremes. I can ask for more clarification. I can use a “both/and” response or a “neither/nor” response. I can decline to answer at the moment.
Some lessons for people trying to trap God: He knows motives. He has thought things out even before the questions or the “trap” were formulated. It would be much more beneficial to learn from God than to use logic against Him. However, like Job, it may prove to be a learning experience for a person with an open heart and mind.