28th March 2021

Whose likeness

This is the coin in use around the time of Christ. Look closely at it and you see a major problem for the Jews of the day. The inscription reads: “Caesar Augustus Tiberius, son of the Divine Augustus.” This puts Caesar in a divine place, which—in the Jewish and Christian mind—could only be occupied by God. According to the scribes, to own and handle this coin was a violation of the first commandment.    

The moneychangers in the famous temple cleansing were changing blasphemous Roman coins for those which would have been acceptable for use in the temple. When Jesus asked to see the coin in Matthew 22:19, he exposed the fact that they all carried the Roman coins on them because they had to.

He then asks his famous question as they look on the coin in verse 20: “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”. They answer that it’s Caesar’s and he diffuses the tense conversation: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”   

Matthew writes this with a wink toward Genesis 1:26, “Let us make humans in our likeness.” That Greek word for “likeness” is the same in both places.

The question behind the question is this: whose likeness is stamped on you? Whose image and likeness do you bear? So yes, we do “render to Caesar” our taxes: property tax, federal tax, state tax, sales tax, etc. but we are to give—or render—ourselves unto God, whose likeness we bear. What does that mean?

Part of that rendering or not rendering hinges on where we place our trust. Do we place our trust in Caesar—government—realizing there is no perfect, complete form of government—or anything or anyone—on earth? No, we know we cannot trust in a government to bring in “heaven on earth.” 

Only God can forgive us, save us, redeem us, and shape us. His is the likeness we bear, and through the power of the Spirit, we are continuing to be transformed into his image.

Presented by Greg Williams


About the presenter:
Word of Life each Sunday is taken from ‘Speaking of Life’, (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video  on the USA website of Grace Communion International. Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA.

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