Mark 12: 1-27
“Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?” Good question. Especially given the context. Roman coins had Caesar’s picture on it. And since Caesar declared himself a god, to carry a coin around, using it as currency, could be (and was) interpreted as idolatry - worshipping false gods.
You might notice that Jesus DOESN’T have a coin on him. He has to ask for one. And in doing so exposes the corruption - the hypocrisy - of the religious leaders, who were challenging Jesus’ teachings while carrying an unlawful coin.
This story is sandwiched in the middle of a some resurrection stories; the parable of the wicked tenants and questions about what life will be like after the resurrection. I think Mark was trying to say confirm Jesus as the true authority, over and against the religious leaders and the corrupt temple religion they represented. Jesus was calling people back to faith in God, through him, and not through the official religious channels.
I think this means, for us, that we have access to God through Jesus, and we don’t need outside authorities to mediate between us and God. We gather as God’s people to share in this relationship, not because the Church is the gatekeeper to God, but, through Jesus, the Church worships God and follows where Jesus guides.