29th Sunday of OT year A 2014:
Today Jesus is put into a real tough spot. Should you pay the census tax or not? It is important to know a little bit about the background. Remember that Jesus was living in a land that was under the control of the Roman Empire. The people of Israel felt oppressed by this external ruler. When it comes to paying the census tax, the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus. If he says it is ok to pay the census tax, the Pharisees would have said he is not being true to the independence of the people of Israel. But, if he were to say it was wrong to pay the tax, he would have been called a dissident or a revolutionary. But, Jesus doesn’t get trapped. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. But, give to God what belongs to God.
But, for me the statement of Jesus leads to a question, one that each of us has to answer: what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God?
In the gospel, Jesus asks a simple question about the coin: whose image and whose inscription is on it? The coin was stamped in the image of Caesar and his words were written on it. So, the coin belonged to Caesar. What is made in the image of God? What has his words written on it?
Of course the answer to that question is all of us. We are made in God’s image. We have his words written on our hearts. God has made us in his own image and likeness. He has given us the gift of his Holy Spirit in baptism. So, not only are we created in God’s likeness, we are recreated by him by the sacraments. We came from God; we are recreated by God through Grace. Everything we have comes from him; everything we are comes from him.
I find it interesting that the Pharisees are trying to pull Jesus into a political squabble and he changes everything. Rather than answer a relatively small question about the census tax, he reminds them that our whole being belongs to God. Everything belongs to him.
This phrase has been good for me this week. It has given me a good chance to do some praying about my relationship with God in my life. If everything belongs to God, do I live like that? Do I spend my time for his glory? Do I give my best effort in all that I do as a repayment of what God has done for me? Do I seek to build up God’s kingdom by what I say and do? Do I make a return to God for all the blessings he has bestowed on me? Do I use the goods of this earth for God’s glory?
I would like to invite all of you to do the same this week with this passage. Listen again to the words of Jesus. Give to God what belongs to God. Our whole lives belong to God, nothing should be separate from him. Let’s think about marriage as a good analogy. What if I had a couple who came to me looking to get married. They tell me they got engaged and they want to have their marriage here at St. Jude. The only thing is, the groom tells me that he doesn’t want to be married on Tuesdays. All the other days of the week he wants to be married and be committed to his bride. But, Tuesdays would be off limits. Tuesdays he would be single, the rest of the week he would be a married man. We would all say that is crazy! Being married means to give yourself completely to your spouse, to hold nothing back.
What about our relationship with God? Do we hold something back? Is there a place we need to grow, something we need to let go of? I know that when I prayed about this over the last week I saw places where I need to grow. I think it will be the same for all of us. So take this phrase with you this week and don’t be afraid to give your life over to God: give to God what belongs to God.