Jakarta, 21 October 2014
A Christian Pilgrim
THINGS THAT ARE CAESAR’S, AND THINGS THAT ARE GOD’S
(A biblical reflection on the 29th ORDINARY SUNDAY, 19 October 2014)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:15-21
First Reading: Isaiah 45:1,4-6; Psalms: Psalm 96:1,3-5,7-10; Second Reading: 1Thessalonians 1:1-5b
The Scripture Text
Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle Him in His talk. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for You do not regard the position of men. Tell us, then, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put Me to the test, you hypocrites? Show Me the money for the tax.” And they brought Him a coin. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:15-21 RSV)
“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mt 22:21).
When the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians questioned Jesus about whether it was “lawful to pay taxes to Caesar,” Jesus knew they were setting a trap for Him. The tax issue was real for the Jewish people: Was it right to pay taxes to the occupying Roman forces? Yet Jesus could see beyond the question to the intentions of those who posed it. If He answered “yes”, He be accused of collaborating with the enemy. If He answered “no”, the Herodians could accuse Him of rebellion.
Jesus avoided this trap ingeniously by asking them to produce a Roman coin. He pointed to the image of Caesar on the coin and told them to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21).
Most of us pay taxes, giving to our government what is the government’s due. In a similar way, we are called to give to God the things that are His – our hearts, our minds and wills, our lives. Because we are God’s beloved children, Jesus’ statement is not so much a challenge as it is an invitation to give our whole selves to Him. Our lives themselves are a gift from the Lord, and in love we can offer this gift back to our Creator.
In truth, even our material possessions and our money are given to us by God. But as we give our hearts to Him, He leads us – through the Holy Spirit, the wisdom of Scripture, and the teachings of the Church – to live righteously in every detail of our lives. God’s wisdom for our lives can be very practical, including even the political, social and financial decisions we may face.
Like the Roman coin, we too have been “stamped” with an image – the image of God (Genesis 1:27). God loved us so much that He created us to be like Him, to be filled with His “strength and beauty” (Psalm 96:6). Because we are the image of God, we have the privilege of hearing Him call us each by name (Isaiah 45:4).
Prayer: Lord, by Your Spirit, allow us to see Your strength and beauty in others. Remove anything that might hinder us from giving ourselves to You in purity and in love. Help us, Lord, to reflect Your love more fully each day. Amen.
Jakarta, 17 October 2014
A Christian Pilgrim