Sunday, July 1, 2018
“Tell us, then,” the Chief Priests asked, “what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” – Matthew 22:17-21
Later they shouted to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate …“They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” – John 19:15
A famous declaration made by Christ that possibly could be heard as a command, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.” But it begs the question … what does belong to Caesar and what does belong to God?
In our times, I hear much about military personnel who give their lives in service to their country. It has almost become a state religion with the flag as its graven image. This military/nationalistic religion with its martyrs and its own code of ethics and its set of values can slowly infiltrate and then take over the soul of the Christ. Remember the warning of Christ … “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” But what is that yeast? Surely a trust in law-and-order to bring about salvation for both the individual and the nation, surely a trust in the glory of Herod’s Temple to restore the greatness of Israel, surely the conscience that allows hypocrisy to flourish, and surely a willingness to vault Caesar as “King”. Remember the words of the Chief Priests at the trial of Christ … “We have NO king but CAESAR!”
In His encounter with His inquisitors about whether Jesus was a tax protestor, part of the resistance against the occupation by Caesar’s military forces, Jesus subtly exposes their own collusion. Christ asks for a coin … and they produce a Roman coin from their own pocket, evidence that they already were identifying with the might of Caesar. “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar!” And what was Caesar’s? A coin, a participation in the Roman economy, their loyalty, their silence, their cooperation, their hypocritical collusion for the sake of their own safety and security?
And then Christ continues, “But render to God what is God’s?” A loyalty, a devotion, an allegiance to godly values, one’s life, one’s priorities even they go counter to the values of Caesar? It is a decision that all Christians must make in whatever nation they live … what belongs to the reign of Caesar and what belongs to the reign of God?
Sadly, even in our own time … you will hear certain Christians declare …”We have no king but Caesar!”
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz