render unto caesar the things which are caesar's, and unto god the things that are god's

Cultural Dictionary

Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's definition

The response of Jesus when his enemies tried to trap him by asking whether it was right for the Jews, whose nation had been taken over by the Roman Empire, to pay tribute to the Roman emperor. He took a Roman coin that would be used to pay the tribute and asked whose picture was on it; his questioners answered, “Caesar's.” The reply of Jesus implied that in using Roman coins, the Jews accepted the rule of the Romans, and so the Roman government had the right to tax them, as long as the Jews were not compromising their religious duties. Jesus' more general point was, “Give to worldly authorities the things that belong to them, and to God what belongs to God.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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