“And He said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?'” (Matthew 22:20)
It is significant that Jesus responded to the Pharisees’ disciples with question. They had just asked Him if it was lawful to pay a poll tax to Caesar or not. The earlier verses inform us that they were not sincere; they were seeking to trap Jesus with His answer. If He said it was not lawful, He could have been arrested for insurrecftion against Rome. But if He legitimized the Roman taxation He might have suffered a great loss of popularity among His Jewish followers. But Jesus, typically, refused to be “boxed in” by them. Instead He responded to His interrogators with a question of His own:
“Whose likeness and inscription is this?” Jesus answered them. “They said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.'” (:21) And it was then that He responded with His all-wise answer: “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
It would have been one thing, had He just said, “This is Caesar’s likeness, so give to Him what is his.” But how much more powerful for Him to make THEM think about this issue, and to have them utter it with their own lips. This way their own minds would processed it; their own lips would speak the answer; and the ears of all who were listening would bear witness to it. Jesus demonstrates for us here the immense power of a thoughtful question.
Those of us seeking to impact others for the Kingdom would do well to imitate Jesus in this, and use the power of a well-asked question.
Rosaria Butterfield, former LGBT professor and writer, describes in her book The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert that a local pastor wrote her a very winsome note which did not “lambast” her for her beliefs, but merely asked her some questions about her convictions that caused her to think — and eventually led to her salvation.
Christian apologist Os Guinness, in his book Fools Talk, writes about the power of a poignant question in apologetics. In fact, Guinness says, sometimes Christian are trying to “answer” questions that the people they are attempting to witness to don’t really have yet. Instead, he urges, we should give them a good question, which will make them think about their beliefs and presuppositiions.
One thing we learn from this passage is that God’s Spirit can use a well-timed question to “stick” a truth in a heart! Perhaps the best thing you could do for someone you would influence for the Kingdom is not to “spoon feed” them an answer they are not yet ready for, but like Jesus here, to ask them a question that God’s Spirit might use to convict them, and eventually to change their life.