Render unto Caesar… Nothing

April 5th, 2013   Submitted by Darryl W Perry


“…the Pharisees took counsel so as they might trap Him in words. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth, and it does not concern You about anyone, for You do not look to the face of men. Then tell us, what do You think? Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?’

But knowing their wickedness, Yeshua* said, ‘Why do you test Me, hypocrites? Show Me the tribute coin.’ And they brought a denarius to Him. And He said to them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’

They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’

Then He said to them, ‘Then give to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God.’”

[Matthew 22:15-22 (LITV) see also Mark 12:13-17 & Luke 20:20-26]

Most churches use this passage of Scripture to teach their congregation to pay taxes, after all, the money comes from our version of Caesar. However, that’s not the message being taught by Yeshua. In order to understand the meaning of this passage, one must understand the context of the times as well.

During the life of Yeshua, as with the vast majority of human  history, there was no “central bank” in the modern sense of the word. Certainly, Caesar – along with other kings, princes and governors – issued coins that could be used throughout the empire, but Caesar didn’t have a monopoly on currency like modern central banks enjoy. Caesar’s mint was still a central bank, but it had competition. To supplement (or compete with) the “kings money” there were several alternative and local currencies. (The Temple, for example had it’s own currency, that could only be used at the Temple, which explains the presence of the money-changers).

In this passage, His accuser gave Him a Roman coin with the inscription of Caesar, most likely Tiberius. It is perhaps significant that Yeshua did not carry such a coin with him but that one of his questioners did.

Yeshua answered, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to YHWH** the things that are YHWH’s”

Professor of Religion at Oregon State University, Marcus Borg explains:

“In context, the saying is thoroughly ambiguous. The word ‘render’ means ‘give back.’ The first half of the saying could thus mean, ‘It’s Caesar’s coin–go ahead and give it back to him.’…When its second half is added, the phrase remains equally ambiguous. What belongs to Caesar, and what belongs to God? The possible answers range from ‘Pay your tribute tax to Caesar, and your temple tax to God’ to ‘Everything belongs to God.’ If the latter, what is owed to Caesar? Nothing.”

Yeshua did not say that taxes are lawful, nor did he counsel obedience to the Romans. In the context of a society with many competing currencies, most of which did not have Caesar’s inscription, Yushua’s response is subtly seditious. Even if one rejects the idea that all things belong to YHWH, they must acknowledge that nothing rightfully belongs to Caesar. Governments own/create nothing that they did not first take from someone else. I can think of no better argument from the Scriptures against taxation, but counceling against using the “king’s money” is a powerful rejection of “central banks.”

Professor of Economics at Rutgers University, Michael Bordo explains:

“A central bank is the term used to describe the authority responsible for policies that affect a country’s supply of money and credit. More specifically, a central bank uses its tools of monetary policy—open market operations, discount window lending, changes in reserve requirements—to affect short-term interest rates and the monetary base (currency held by the public plus bank reserves) and to achieve important policy goals.”

The Federal Reserve (the current US central bank) claims, “to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system.” Yet, as Ron Paul pointed out “throughout its nearly 100-year history, the Federal Reserve has presided over the near-complete destruction of the United States dollar. Since 1913 the dollar has lost over 95% of its purchasing power, aided and abetted by the Federal Reserve’s loose monetary policy.”

Without legal tender laws, a central bank, a printing press, or a coin mint, the Caesars of our day have nothing. If Caesar has nothing, he cannot be owed anything… and there would be nothing for us to “render unto Caesar.” Seems like it’s time to be exploring alternatives.

* “Yashua” is the original Aramaic name of the Messiah most English speakers call Jesus Christ.
** “YHWH” is the tetragrammaton, meaning “four letters” referring to the Hebrew letters “Yodh He Waw He” and is considered the proper Biblical name of the supreme deity of the Abrahamic faiths.
*** For further analysis of common myths and distortions of Christian teachings seek out The Anarcho Teachings of Yeshua

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34 Responses to “Render unto Caesar… Nothing”

  1. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    What evidence has lead you to conclude that Yeshua was a real person and not a fictional person? Stories written about someone on scrolls a couple thousand years ago is not evidence that the person in the stories was a real person.


    • Davi BarkerNo Gravatar says:

      Who has time for that. I’m still looking for evidence that you exist, and you’re not a fictional person, or a robot or something. Pixels in patterns on screens broadcast over interconnected processors and servers is not evidence that the person in the comments section is a real person.

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        Really? That is lame. I make time to find truths. I want to believe what is true and I want to believe as many thrue things as possible and not believe that which is not true.


      • MAMNo Gravatar says:

        Have you taken time to find out if the Celestial Tea Pot is real or is your default position that it actually exists?

        Do you also believe in Unicorns, Faeries, and Dragons?

        The point is this, believe whatever you want, but taking time to investigate claims leads to the truth. If you believe everything you’re told and hear you run into the problem of believing alot of self contradictory things, alot of things that contradict eachother, and alot of things that do not jive when one looks at reality.

        You’ve obviously applied yourself to anarchy and refuting the State, why don’t you turn that same critical eye onto your religion, and the religions of others? Or really any claim other than political ones?

        Do you not wish to be consistent?

        • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

          Uh, I don’t believe the claims of religion. I am an Atheist.


          • MAMNo Gravatar says:

            Yeah I was talking to Davi. I figured you would be an atheist considering you chose your name after Rand’s character in Atlas Shrugged, and Rand was a very vocal atheist.

            • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

              Oh. The thread on this blog is times hard to follow. Your post was right after mine and so it appeared to be a response to mine. Rand btw had no influence on why I am an atheist. In fact when I became a reader of her works I was not at that time an Atheist.


              • MAMNo Gravatar says:

                How did you make the leap? I was a fundie then I discovered Thunderfoot on youtube and various other youtube atheists. Non Stamp Collector is one of my favourites.

                Thunderfoot’s series “Why People Laugh at Creationists” is hilarious.

                • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

                  Just prior to concluding that
                  there is no god I was a Deist
                  so it was not much of a leap.
                  I concluded that ther is no
                  good reason to believe that
                  a god exists after research
                  of religions and reading books
                  by Atheists and hearing arguments
                  against there being god(s).
                  I listen to the Atheist Experience
                  and watch YT videos made by
                  Atheists. Bionic Dance,
                  Seth Andrews(the Thinking
                  Atheist) and others.


                  • Charleen LynchNo Gravatar says:

                    I think this truth will go a long way toward the liberation of professed Christians, especially those who, out of a false sense of patriotism, continue to support a system that is not in their best interest.
                    For the truth seekers here, I offer a real good read, The Question of God, by Dr. Armond M. Nicholi Jr. It is a clever rendering of the personal writtings and accounts of C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud, and the development of their own ideologies. Its written almost as if they are sitting in the same room having a discussion. ..Enjoy.

    • KunkmiesterNo Gravatar says:

      I have studied scriptures, and taken the admonition spoken of several times to pray in faith, knowing that if there is a God, he’ll respond, affirming that belief. God does not want blind believers, they’re a dime a dozen and pretty much useless. To refuse to question religion leads to Islam, and suicide bombers. A true religion can take criticism, even welcome it.

      Prayer is not exactly a scientific experiment, since actual results will vary between individuals, but anyone who denies that experiment either does not understand Christianity, or abuses it.

    • William FogleNo Gravatar says:

      If you want to argue the existence of Jesus, then go find an atheist site and spew forth all day. I can tell you are a government worshiper and therefore a useless commentator, go knee before your G*d the government, you will be welcomed into Sat*ns arms at once..

  2. LysanderNo Gravatar says:

    Great piece. Lots of people think this passage means there’s some kind of Christian moral duty to pay tax so it’s great to have the anarchist response so well explained.

  3. RogueNo Gravatar says:

    I am a confused Deist at the moment, trying to find out a proper way to seek truth in the Christian culture I was born and raised in.

    Regardless of where you stand regarding State and Religion, this article has merit for both parties. I choose to believe that Jesus was a historical figure (at the moment). And even if he wasn’t “real”, his stories and parables have truth embedded in them. I am suspicious of any person who wholly rejects the teachings of Jesus Christ because, despite him being real or not, he questions the State (and Religion) and makes a sincere effort to seek out truth.

    When I was a Christian NUT (completely wrapped up in the literal meaning of the Bible), I was paying up to 30% of my income TO THE CHURCH, NOT THE STATE. Why? because of this exact parable. I interpreted this Cesar parable as Jesus telling the State to “fuck off”, in his own kind words. The beginning of the parable even says “the Pharisees took counsel so as they might trap Him in words.” Jesus being Jesus probably knew this, which is why he used ambiguous language to remind the State where his loyalties lie – without having to be executed (at that time).

    For the record, I do not believe in Unicorns, Dragons or Santa. I am on the fence about the Easter Bunny still.

    • tolstoyagainNo Gravatar says:

      It was explained in a Southpark episode a couple of years ago (Hare Club for Men). Love that Southpark.

    • Rogue, I no longer thing of myself as a Christian, because much of what I see in Christianity today seems far astray for the teaching and example of Jesus. I am quite confident that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person because he is not only mentioned in the Bible, but as well by contemporary or near-contemporary Jewish and Roman historians. Most important, I have found that in trying, however haltingly, to abide by his principles, particularly as set forth in his wonderful Sermon on the Mount, my life goes very well indeed, and as promised therein, God provides all of my needs, including many things I see others applying for to the state, and always at the price of some or all of their freedom. ktf (keep the faith), Ned

  4. KathyNo Gravatar says:

    Why would anyone take such pride in being an atheist? Do you feel more “evolved” than people who have a religion? Because that’s how your posts sound…..

    • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

      The posts don’t “sound’ that way to me. Although I dont take “pride” in being an Atheist I see nothing wrong with someone who does per se. I am pround of things that I have accomplished. I don’t “feel” (I really don’t know how one would) more evolved than people who have a religion. I think that perhaps I am more enlightened than some people who have a religion however. Unforetuneately there are some people in some parts of the world who are uneducated and have not been taught about science and perhaps believe in a religion because of their state of ignorance which is not their fault. Some perhaps believe in religion because of cultural indoctrination. Some perhaps believe a religion because they would rather believe something that comforts them than believe something based on evidence and reason.


      I believe I am more enlightened than someone like this:

      a good song

      trailer to what looks like a good film

    • RogueNo Gravatar says:

      I feel like it’s my duty to make sure that everything I was taught as a child is true. All religious people question their faith at some point in time.

      • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

        How do you know that all religious people question their faith at some point? I question that statement. That may be true but I don’t know that it is. I think that it is a good thing to examine one’s beliefs regarding a number beliefs one holds. Sometimes one finds that beliefs one has assumed is true and seemed just good sense is not true. For example one might assume that the way keys on a keyboard or that antient device called a typewriter is the way it is because that arrangement enables one to type quickly. I have reseached this and discovered that the opposite is true. The arragement was actually found to slow down the typist. The reason for this is because the first typewriters that were made were large abs bulky and when one typed very fast the hammers attached to the keys would jam up. Thus the arrangement used was done to slow down the typist so that the hammers operated by the keys would not get jammed up. The point is that one should not simply assume that something they believe is true is true.

        Did everyone question this man’s statements? I don’t know if everyone did but everyone should have. Everyone should also question statements made others who are involved in politics as well.

        • RogueNo Gravatar says:

          Part of the human condition is to be curious, especially about your own existence. Whether you choose to break away from your faith is irrelevant, but most people* question their own worldview.

          *I certainly agree not ALL people do this – there are always going to be outliers. The people that don’t are extremists/fanatics, IMO.

  5. No doubt Jesus, who consistently justified himself, his deeds and his teaching upon the authority of Sacred Jewish Scripture, had in mind Psalm 24 verse 1 (“The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.”) when he said “give Caesar what is Caesar’s”],” in other words, nothing. The agents (“spies, the gospels call them) the chief priests had.”to trap Jesus in speech so they could hand him over to the governor (Pilate, who was responsible for collecting Rome’s taxes in Judea) were befuddled by Jesus’ response, but when they reported to the priests what Jesus had said, the priests, who knew Scripture, knew exactly what Jesus meant. So they sent their thugs to take Jesus by force and then handed him over to Pilate and told Pilate, “We found this man subverting our nation (viz., Rome), forbidding us to pay taxes to Caesar…he has been stirring up crowds of people from Galilee all the way to here.” So Pilate crucified Jesus, almost certainly as a tax resister. Those who follow Jesus do not pay taxes, at least to the extent they can avoid paying without resorting to force or violence or deceit, which are the tools of those who collect, receive and benefit from taxes.

    Jesus suborned at least two or three and almost certainly many other tax collectors, inducing them to quit their sinful duties to follow him (e.g. Matthew, Levi, Zaccheaus), no doubt at the cost of
    significant revenues to Rome.

    Jesus told Peter the sons (of God) are exempt from taxes.

    Jesus compared the position of tax collector to prostitution.

    When Satan tempted Jesus he offered him all of the power and authority of all of the kingdoms of the world, saying that it had been given to him and he could give it to whomever he pleased. Jesus turned the offer down, but did not contest the devil’s contention that the power and authority of earthly regimes were Satan’s to give.

    Although he consorted with and welcomed reformed tax collectors as disciples, he repeatedly referred to tax collectors as exemplars of sinfulness.

    The tax in question in the render-unto-Caesar incident was tribute, and Jesus advocated paying tribute to God alone. He would never, ever condone tribute to Caesar.

    Those preachers who encourage their flocks of sheep to pay their taxes from their tax-exempt pulpits are doing Satan’s work.

    P.S. To those atheists who think there is no God, I would advise reading the works of Thomas Acquinas and Aristotle, who proved the existence of God logi9cally, before professing there is no God..If you have not read those two giants of logical thought, you have not done your research.

    • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

      Uh, an Atheist is one who does not believe in gods. Thus to state, ” to those Atheist who think there is no god” is redundant. I have read Acquinas and Aristotle and have not read anything they wrote that logically proves the existance of a god. Btw, Aristotle did not believe in the god of the bible and he lived before jesus supposedly was born.


      • Most atheists, like most Christians, Jews and Muslims, believe in the state and worship it as their god. (Although certainly if you are an anarchist atheist that does not apoly to you.

        Aristotle, although born before Jesus, believed in the same God Jesus believed in, which isn’t surprising since there is only one God.

        • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

          Have you taken polls? How do you what most most Atheists or theists believe in relation to the so called state? I have known many theists and some Atheists who are statists but I would not claim to know that most are. In fact I don’t know what the political views are of most people I have met. It is possible that I have met both theists ans Atheists who are not statists and not know that about them. When I met someone rarely does politics become a topic of conversation because I don’t make a point of bringing it up as a topic. I have found in fact that there are many people who are not necessarily Anarchists or Volunraryists but don’t care about politics.

          As for Aristole, he did not believe in the god of the bible. In fact he was polytheistic because he believed in unmoved moverS. Notice the S.


          • Polls??? You believe in polls too, and/or you believe polls? I give them very little credence.

            There is no need for poll taking to determine that most atheists and most others are statists. Careful, thoughtful observation of the world around us and its people is much more reliable, and that was the basis of my comment. You obviously subscribe to the same methodology to arrive at conclusions for you say, ” I have found in fact that there are many people who are not necessarily Anarchists or Volunraryists but don’t care about politics.” How did you find out that “fact?” Did you take a poll?

            The fact is, and this fact is indisputable, I have been and identified myself as a voluntaryist for well over twenty years. In my circle of acquaintances during this time I have often sought out their views, not on politics, but rather on the necessity of government. Virtually all have alleged that the state is necessary for one reason or another, and on that basis I label them statists. My circle of acquaintances has included a fair number of atheists, and without keeping track of the atheist-statist association and comparing it with the theist-statist association, it is my considered observation that among atheists, statism is quite as common as it is among believers in God. This belief in the necessity of the state is essentially the same as the beliefs of religious practitioners, for it assigns to government superhuman capabilities that no other human construct or institution possess, much as religious practitioners purportedly assign superhuman qualities to God. Unlike belief in God, statism is completely irrational; for anyone but a fool should be able to recognize that government is comprised of ordinary humans who, when examined, acquire no superhuman qualities upon entrance into the employ of government and assumption of the mantle of “rulers.” However, belief in government among Judeo-Christians seems even more irrational to me than among atheists because it perverts their purported belief in one God who would have no other gods before Him.

            Regarding Aristotle, I will check my copy of his works, for I thought his unmoved mover was singular, and if necessary will stand corrected–noting however that the logic of Aristotle’s unmoved mover or movers was utilized by Acquinas as a key element of his own’ logical argument for the existence of God.

  6. BTW, for those who believe in government, I heartily recommend the book THE MOST DANGEROUS SUPERSTITION by Larken Rose.

  7. The largest religion based on the number of adherents is Statolatry, not Christianity, Islam, Hindu, etc.

    • owen kelloggNo Gravatar says:

      Great comments, Ned – especially your view that you’re not a “Christian” in the modern manifestation of the word. I share the same opinion of myself. I’m sure you’re familiar with Tolstoy, but if not, check out his writings – particularly The Kingdom of God is Within You.

      HRearden – I understand and respect your viewpoints also, but you come across as being a bit hostile toward all theists. Keep in mind that guys like Ned and myself are not “cut from the same cloth” as many of today’s judgemental (and also hostile) religious fanatics. We’re on the same team here. I love atheists, and I thank them every chance I get for pulling me out of the pit of state-worshipping, sectarian dogma by use of reason. However, faith plays an important part in the human experience, even though you may not agree.

  8. Thanks, Owen Kellogg. You must be Irish to be so wise and kind of heart. I have read Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom…” He is an inspiration I have often quoted.

    Many so-called Christians are like those so-called anarchists who engage in wanton violence under the banner of anarchy, but in the fashion of those mindless agents of the State when they go on a rampage.

  9. Ned NettervilleNo Gravatar says:

    Wow, folks. David Hillary has just posted an hour-long perspective on whether the state is divine or satanic, coming down hard in favor of the latter. See it on Youtube here: