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Sunday, October 19, 2014



Israel was under the Roman Empire during the time of Jesus so the Jews were required by the Roman law to pay tribute to the Roman Emperor in form of taxes.  For the nationalistic Jews, payment was an offence to Israel yet refusal to pay would be a form of rebellion against the Empire.
         When Jesus was asked whether it was lawful to pay tax to Caesar or not, Jesus replied: “Render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
We all know that the question was an entrapment to Jesus by the Pharisees and the Herodians.   To say “yes” means contradicting the people’s direct relationship with God and giving up the dream of the Jews  for political freedom.  To say “no” means agitating rebellion against the Roman rule.  But the response of Jesus in this very difficult dilemma was neither Yes or No!  Jesus wanted to bring the political agenda of his listeners to a higher ground.  
By asking whose face was inscribed in the coin being used by the Jews in their transactions, Jesus in return put the snares back to them.  When they said it was Caesar’s, they have long ago acknowledged the authority of Caesar as their Emperor, as if they had already answered  their own question.   Now it was Jesus' turn to bring authority in the spiritual realm:  Render to God what belongs to God.”  The reference to the inscription on the coin (denarius) is very important because if the face of Caesar was inscribed in the coin then the money belongs to Caesar.  But because man is created in the image and likeness of God, then humanity belongs to God.  It is a very simple logic!
Jesus did not dwell on the legitimacy of the Roman rule because the Jews had already established that fact by using the coin that bore the face of Caesar.   More importantly Jesus’ concern was to establish our obligation to the spiritual authority that encompasses everything including emperors and kings. 
So now, why and what do we have to render to God?
 Our country gives us our citizenship, acquired by birth or by being naturalised, which is our privilege.  So our government protects us and gives us the services due to us as its citizens.  But this privilege has a corresponding responsibility on our part as citizens: to give something back in return to the state like our taxes, voting during election, defending the country in times of aggression, etc.  That is how we give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. 
In the spiritual realm, God has given us the privilege of being called his adopted children.  Because he is our Father, he provides us with everything we need.  In return, we do not give him “something” like what we give to the state, instead we give him our life!   He owns everything including us so we render him our adoration, praise, love and fidelity.

“Take Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, my entire will…. You have given all to me, now I return it.  Everything is yours; do with what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.  Amen”
(St. Ignatius of Loyola)

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