Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
The Pharisees were playing games. They didn't realize it at the time -they thought they were playing games with men, but they were playing games with God. They were so confident their theological paradigm was correct that it never crossed their minds that they might be wrong -about anything. So they came up with tricky questions and false arguments and straw men of every sort to prove to themselves and others how clever and how correct they were.
Of course, there is a big problem with this approach to the spiritual life -the problem is that even though they couldn't see it, they were wrong -completely wrong. This seems obvious to us since we have Scripture and history to show us the reality. It was not as obvious to them. From their perspective, they were serving God by exposing false teachings and a false prophet.
The sad thing is that we do the same thing today. We will fight to the death to defend theological paradigms that have nothing to do with the heart of God. Charismatics battle Evangelicals that battle Presbyterians that battle Baptists that battle Methodists that Battle Congregationalists that battle Armenians that battle Reformers -and all do this in the name of God, quoting Scripture, defending Truth against bad doctrine and heresy. Meanwhile, as we play games with God, the world watches and wonders.
I wonder what might happen if we actually believed what Jesus taught? "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself."
When we stand before God, I'm certain that He is not going to question us on our denominational distinctives or theological correctness; instead, He will look at our hearts. Did we love God? Did we love others?