render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s ; give to Caesar what is Caesar’s

fulfill your duties to the government
—I don’t like paying taxes, but I have to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

The Pharisees tried to trick Jesus, questioning him on whether the Jews should pay taxes to Caesar, the Roman king. They even teamed up with the Herodians, people loyal to Herod and his family. They did this even though the Pharisees were strongly opposed to Roman rule and to Herod, who was loyal to Rome. Both groups were hoping Jesus’ answer would offend someone, either those who sided with the Romans or those who hated Caesar.

They sent to him their disciples along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You do not court anyone’s favor because you show no partiality. Tell us then, what do you think? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus realized their evil intentions and said, “Hypocrites! Why are you testing me? Show me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought him a denarius. Jesus said to them, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s [Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s], and to God the things that are God’s.” Now when they heard this they were stunned, and they left him and went away. (Matthew 22:16-22)

Even though the word render is not often used today with the meaning of “pay,” the phrase render unto Caesar is used—especially when it is time to pay taxes—with the attitude that we have no choice but to submit to the will of the government.

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