A New Testament scholar once told me his theory that Jesus was a Pharisee, and his criticisms of the Pharisees were his attempt to reform his own sect of Judaism, not dismantle it.
That would explain why the Sadducees were constantly debating with him, and also why the Pharisees hated him even more than the Sadducees, as he posed a threat to their authority.
So they attempted to tangle him up in a trick question:
Matthew 22:15-22 – Jesus Says Render Unto Caesar What Is Caesar's (King James Version)
"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 Caesar, 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, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar'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."
So when Jesus says "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's," could we append the words "like his stupid money with his stupid face and name on it."?
I think we can because of verse 20.
Jesus may have been encouraging the Jewish people, who were dealing with the problem of being occupied by a foreign empire and ruled by force, to give up the use of the Roman Empire's money as a way to revolt against it.
Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's– which Jesus defines as anything with his name and face on it.
So all of it. Give him back all of his money. And start from scratch with your own resources and let the market create money.
This understanding seems inherent in the passage itself, but is also supported by Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers:
"Render therefore unto Caesar.--As far as the immediate question was concerned, this was of course an answer in the affirmative. It recognised the principle that the acceptance of the emperor's coinage was an admission of his de facto sovereignty. But the words that followed raised the discussion into a higher region, and asserted implicitly that that admission did not interfere with the true spiritual freedom of the people, or with their religious duties."
(Hat tip: BibleHub)
In the last sentence of this I also hear words of advice to an idealist who lives in an imperfect world:
You can shrug off the weight of the rest of the world.
Although the world is imperfect, you are still able to render of yourself unto God what is God's, by personally striving to do your own individual best in whatever situation you find yourself.
The weight of the world does not have to rest on you.
Just the weight of your responsibility for your own choices.
Or as Robert Heinlein put it in The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress:
According to The Pulpit Commentary, "render" in this passage means "give back," which supports a reading of this passage as Jesus proposing that Jews revolt by relinquishing the money of the Roman Federal Government:
"Verse 21. - Caesar's. They are constrained to answer that the coin bears the effigy of the Roman emperor. Render (ἀπόδοτε, give back, as a due) therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's (τὰ Καίσαρος)."
If he were alive today, Jesus would say to the Pharisees, "Judas, get a twenty out of your wallet." He'd take it out of Judas' hand and put it right up to the Pharisee's nose.
"See this? Who's name does it say right there? Henry Paulson? Well if it's got Henry Paulson's name on it... why then I think you should give it all back to him."
My Tip Jars:
Uh...(WTH) is all this?