In Matthew 22 an interesting incident arises in which the Pharisees try to get Jesus into trouble by asking him if it is lawful to give tribute money to Caesar. The trap here is that Roman domination is terribly unpopular and so they are essentially trying to use this as a wedge issue. If Jesus says pay tribute then this will run contrary to the politics of many of his followers as well as a number of their Messianic hopes which included such things as deliverance from political domination. If, on the other hand, he says not to pay tribute to the head of the Roman empire, then he will effectively have set himself up as a political opponent to Rome and the Pharisees can then use Rome to crush him. Either way, problem solved. As it happens, though, Jesus takes them in a completely different direction and turns this trap into a wonderful teaching moment. Beginning at verse 15:
15 ¶ Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Cæsar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
The coin was, of course, struck in the image of Caesar, the head of the Roman Empire. But, just as the coin was struck in the image of Caeser, so mankind was made in the image of God. And, just as it is right to give that which is in the image of Caeser to Caeser, so it is also right to render faithful obedience to God and the Son in whose image we are made (Genesis 1:27), and to whose glorious image we hope to be ultimately conformed (Romans 8:29-30).