The Parable of the Wedding Garment
The Savior then delivered a third parable: the parable of the wedding garment (Matt. 22:1-14). In the parable, a king "made a marriage for his son." "When the marriage was ready" (JST 22:3), the king sent forth his servants to tell those who had been invited to the wedding to "come unto the marriage." "But they made light of the servants, and went their ways; one to his farm, another to his merchandise; And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them" (JST Matt. 22:5-6). When the king heard how his servants were treated, "he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city." The king said, "The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy. Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage." The servants did as they were commanded: they "went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests."
The parable could have ended here with the point being made. However, there is second point the Savior wished to make. "When the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment." We do not know enough about wedding ceremonies during the time of Christ to understand the cultural aspect of this portion of the parable. But either a wedding garment was given to those invited to the wedding or at least suitable clothing was made available. Whatever is the case, it is apparent that having the wedding garment was essential for the wedding feast.
The king asked, "Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?" Perhaps in the rush of filling the wedding with guests, the man was not able to get a garment or none was given him. But the man "was speechless." That is, he had been given the opportunity to receive the garment but did not take it. "Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast [him] into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." The Savior concluded the parable saying, "For many are called, but few chosen." The JST adds, "wherefore all do not have on the wedding garment" (JST Matt. 22:14).
The King represents God, the Father. The king's son is Christ. The wedding feast represents Christ's coming among the Jews. The marriage metaphor was common metaphor used in the Old Testament to represent the covenant relationship between God and Israel. (15)
The parable has two points. The first is more obvious than the second. The first point is a reiteration of the last parable: because the Jews rejected the Lord's servants, they would be destroyed and the gospel would be taken to the gentiles.
The second point focuses on preparation. Those who have been called to the wedding feast were given a special garment to wear at the feast. As the king looked over the hastily bidden guests, he spied a man not wearing the wedding garment. What was the garment? We are not told. But it is apparent that without the garment, one was not prepared to enjoy the wedding festivities.
Of this, Joseph Smith stated: "The day of the Lord is fast approaching when none except those who have won the wedding garment will be permitted to eat and drink in the presence of the Bridegroom, the Prince of Peace!" (16) The wedding garment represents personal preparedness for the Lord's coming.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie stated: "Salvation is a personal matter; it comes to individuals, not congregations. Church membership alone does not save; obedience after baptism is required. Each person called to the marriage feast will be examined separately, and of the many called to partake of the bounties of the gospel few only will wear the robes of righteousness which must clothe every citizen in the celestial heaven. True it is that the Lord "hath bid his guests," as Zephaniah said, but "all such as are clothed with strange apparel" shall be cast out. (Zeph. 1:7-8.)" (17)
Again, he wrote: "He had accepted the invitation (the gospel); joined with the true worshipers (come into the true Church); but had not put on the robes of righteousness (that is, had not worked out his salvation after baptism)."
Render Unto Caesar
The Jewish leaders were frustrated by the Savior's response to their question of authority. Matthew records that hearing the Savior's response to the Sanhedrin, "Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk."
The devised another plan. They approached the Savior with another question in order to trap the Savior. They took with them the Herodians, those who desired to see the family line of Herod regain power in Jerusalem. They questioned the Savior in this manner: "Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?" (Matt. 22:16-17).
The tribute under question was the poll tax which was an especially unpopular tax. The poll tax was not a tax dealing with merchandise in any way. "Customs duties were disliked, but at least on paying them on go something, the right to take goods to their destination. But with the poll tax there was no such benefit. It was a tax that simply removed money from the citizen and transferred it to the emperor's coffers with no benefit to the citizen." (18)
The question was framed in such a
However, "Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew [pronounced 'show' in old English] me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matt. 22:18-21).
The Savior's response has become a classic. That which belongs to the government should be rendered and that which belongs to God should be rendered. President N. Eldon Tanner has reminded us: "There is no reason or justification for men to disregard or break the law or try to take it into their own hands. Christ gave us the great example of a law-abiding citizen when the Pharisees, trying to entangle him, as the scriptures say, asked him if it were lawful to give tribute money unto Caesar. After asking whose inscription was on the tribute money, and their acknowledgment that it was Caesar's, he said: 'Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.