The Pharisees and the Herodians temporarily put aside their differences to work out a plan to destroy Jesus. Their trickery question that whatever answer Jesus gave, 'agree or disagree', He would have deadly consequences. They were so certain, that Jesus was in a 'lose/lose' situation. The question related to politics when they asked Him: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" Saying 'yes', Jesus destroyed the hope of His people. Saying 'no', Jesus would be judged as exciting revolution against the Roman Empire.
Jesus knew their evil trick. He asked them to show Him the coin that was used to pay tax. He asked them to identify the image on the coin. They told Him it was the Emperor; Caesar. Jesus told them: 'Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God' v.16. Jesus' answer made them fall into their own trap. His answer made them know their obligations. There were two obligations everyone must do. First, every citizen has an obligation to pay tax to the land governing authority; and second, all creatures must worship God. Jesus once confirmed to the lawyer that: 'Love God with all one's mind and heart and soul, and love one's neighbours as oneself' Mt 22,37 is everyone's obligation. Jesus could see our hearts and read our minds. He knew the name, and the emperor's image, and scripts on the coin, but He asked the Pharisees to identify the name of the Emperor on the coin for a specific purpose. And that way He revealed their untruthfulness. On the outside they praised Jesus that, 'You are an honest man and teach the way of God.... a man of rank' v. 18 but inside, they planned to trap Him. Again, they appeared to worship God, but deep inside they worshipped not God, but the Roman Empire, their power and their money. Apart from untruthfulness, they were unfaithful to God. Raising funds to upkeep and maintain the Temple was a right thing to do. Standing on the Holy ground to discuss the taxing matters to the emperor, demanding worshippers to pay extra tax, and selling hiked price sacrifices offering defiled the temple. In doing that, the house of prayer, said Jesus, became 'a robber's den' Mt 21, 13.
The inscription on the coin was 'Caesar, son of the divine Augustus, high priest'. Augustus claimed he was divine. The idol, emperor coins, were close to the Pharisees' hearts and were even in the Temple. By not acknowledging the name and image of the emperor on the coin, Jesus explicitly told the Pharisees, that there were no other gods, except the One True Creator, His Father. He is the God they must worship. Wealth is good and necessary but no one must mastered by it. The Pharisees were there for people, not people for wealth. After Jesus' desert experience, the devil tempted Him three times. Each time he failed, but he vowed to come back Mt. 4,1-11. The third temptation was all about wealth and worldly glory. The devil falsely claimed the world and its splendour belong to him. He would give to Jesus if He worshipped him. Jesus replied: 'Be off, Satan. You must worship the Lord your God, and serve Him alone' v.10. St Luke added, 'the devil left Jesus, but promised to return at the appointed time' Lk 4,13. Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees that outside they worshipped God in the Temple, but inside, represented in their pocket was the image of an idol emperor. Who they did vow allegiance to was in question. Faithfulness to God must be both in words and deeds, not words alone.