• Illustration by Linda Jeanne Rivers

The Pharisees ask Jesus if it’s lawful to pay the emperor’s tax

Jennifer Ficcaglia / Catholic Courier    |    10.16.2017
Category: Kids Chronicle

In this issue:
The Pharisees ask Jesus if it’s lawful to pay the emperor’s tax
Trivia: Who was the Roman emperor during Jesus’ ministry?
Bible Accent: Payment methods changed over time
Saint for Today: St. Martin de Porres
Puzzle: Match the coins to the country

The Pharisees ask Jesus if it’s lawful to pay the emperor’s tax

Reading of Oct. 22, 2017: Mt 22:15-21

Just a few days before his crucifixion, Jesus was teaching the people in Jerusalem’s temple.

He told the parable of two sons whose father asked them to work in the field. One son refused but changed his mind and went, while the other said he would go but did not. The crowd agreed that the first son had done his father’s will.

Jesus also told the parable of tenants who did not give produce to their landlord. The landlord tried to collect the produce, each time sending a different servant. The tenants beat the first servant, killed the second and stoned the third. The landlord then sent his son, whom he thought would be respected, but the son was killed as well.

Jesus asked the people what the landlord would do. The people said he would put the tenants to death and lease his land to tenants who would give him his produce.

Jesus then said that those who rejected him would have the kingdom of God taken from them and given to those who would produce its fruit.

The Pharisees had been listening to Jesus the whole time. They plotted a way to trick him into saying something wrong in front of the people.

“Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” they asked, referring to the Roman emperor who ruled Israel at the time.

Jesus knew he was being tested. If he said it was unlawful to pay Caesar’s tax, he would be turned in to the Romans as a traitor. If he said it was lawful to pay the tax, he would be accused of being disloyal to Israel.

“Show me the coin that pays the census tax,” Jesus said.

The Pharisees handed him a Roman coin, which was the only currency that the Roman Empire would accept for the census tax.

“Whose image is this and whose inscription?” Jesus asked.

“Caesar’s,” the Pharisees replied.

Jesus paused and looked intently at the Pharisees.

“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God,” he said.

All who heard Jesus were amazed by his perfect answer.


Matthew 22


1.Who wanted to trick Jesus into saying something wrong?

2.To whom was the census tax owed?


Who was the Roman emperor during Jesus’ ministry?

Answer: Tiberius Caesar

Bible Accent: Payment methods changed over time

The Bible talks a lot about making purchases, and the way things were paid for changed over the centuries.

For example, in very early biblical times people did not have coins or paper money. Instead, they traded their possessions, crops, animals or professional services for the goods they needed.

In the Old Testament, we read the terms “shekel” and “talent.” These were units of measure to weigh lumps of silver or gold — called ingots — that were used as currency. If a person wanted to buy something, he or she placed ingots on a scale until the agreed upon weight of shekels or talents was reached for the purchase.

As time went on, silver and gold were minted into coins, and what a coin was worth was stamped right on it.

Around 500 B.C., coins were made in the kingdom of Lydia in what is now present-day Turkey. The idea of minting coins soon spread and was copied by the Persian, Greek and Roman empires. It is said that the Israelites began using coins during the time that they were ruled by the Persians. Around 211 B.C., the Romans minted a silver coin called the denarius. This coin, which was often decorated with the name and likeness of the emperor, was Rome’s main currency until the third century A.D.

The Roman Empire controlled most of the known world — including the lands in which the Israelites lived — from the first century B.C. until its collapse in A.D. 476. So when Jesus said to repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, he was talking about the Roman denarius.

Saint for Today: St. Martin de Porres

St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639) was born in Lima, Peru. He was the son of a freed Panamanian slave and a Spanish knight.

Martin had great compassion for his people. He had been the apprentice of a barber-surgeon and also learned about herbal medicine from his mother, so he was always taking care of the sick and the poor. He also founded an orphanage and ministered to African slaves.

He worked for several years at a Dominican monastery as a member of the Third Order, and in 1603 he professed his vows as a lay brother.

When he died, all Peruvians viewed him as their saint. We remember him on Nov. 3.


Draw a line between each coin and the modern-day Middle Eastern country it is from. For hints, ask a parent to help you research the answers online.

new shekel Turkey

lira Egypt

pound Saudi Arabia

dinar Israel

riyal Iraq

Answers: new shekel-Israel; lira-Turkey; pound-Egypt; dinar-Iraq; riyal-Saudi Arabia

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