August 3, 2010


When Jesus was asked if the Hebrew law allowed for tribute to Rome (Mt 22:17-18), He answered “Show me the tribute money. Whose image and superscription is on it?” (Mt 22:19-20).

The answer was “It is Caesar’s image and superscription.” Jesus then said “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mt 22:21). In other words, if the currency has a pagan image or writing on it, give it to the government whose image is on it. That which Hebrews gave to God for contributions other than tithes had the Hebrew language and images of items belonging to Temple worship.

What was Jesus talking about?

The answer relates to the nature of the Temple shekel and the money changers. Every Hebrew man, woman and child was required by the Old Covenant Law to pay an annual poll tax, or head tax, which was used to maintain the Temple and pay for sacrifices for the nation (Ex 30:13).

It is extremely important to realize that the Temple shekel was NOT from money which had pagan images and writing on it! Such was forbidden inside God’s holy temple. Roman currency was not allowed because it had the image of Caesar on it along with a Roman superscription in Latin.

This must also apply to our own currency. It has images of our presidents and English. Shocking as it is, our money would not qualify in the first century to be used as gifts to God or the OT Temple system!

The money-changers were “bankers” and those who ran the market were possibly Levites. Their tables were set up in the Court of the Gentiles and not inside the Temple building itself because the money brought to them could not enter the Temple buildings. The money-changers exchanged legitimate Roman currency for lawful “Temple money” which did not contain pagan images or foreign writing. This is common in many eastern religions even today. The money-changers charged an exchange rate which resulted in the worshippers receiving less “Temple money” than their real money was worth.

Jesus was angry. Even though this occurred in the Court of the Gentiles which was outside the proper Temple structures, it was still considered the Temple property.

Although the texts say that Jesus was inside the “temple of God,” they must be understood as a reference to the Court of Gentiles beside the Temple buildings (Mt 21:12; Mk 11:15).

The Jewish people were extremely critical about image-bearing pagan currency (shields, ensigns or anything else). A study of Jewish history will reveal several revolts over this issue.

WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH TITHING? Have you looked at your money lately? It bears Gentile images and would have never been accepted as tithes under the Law. Whether the money was a Hebrew shekel or a Gentile coin, it was never a tithed item. Those who teach we are to obey the tithing commands of the Law are inadvertently saying that our money cannot be used for tithes.