Gospel Reflection – “Give to God what belongs to God”
HAC for Fr.Nathan – image – courtesy and used with permission – www.freebibleimages.org – copyright LUMO Project
What do we owe God and our neighbor? Scripture tells us to give to everyone whatever is their due and to “owe no one anything, except to love one another” (Romans 13:6-8). The Jewish authorities sought to trap Jesus in a religious-state issue. The Jews resented their foreign rulers and despised paying taxes to Caesar. They posed a dilemma to test Jesus to see if he was loyal to them and to their understanding of religion. If Jesus answered that it was lawful to pay taxes to a pagan ruler, then he would lose credibility with the Jewish nation who would regard him as a coward and a friend of Caesar. If he said it was not lawful, then the Pharisees would have grounds to report him to the Roman authorities as a political trouble-maker and have him arrested.
Coins inscribe the owner’s name and authority on them
Jesus avoided their trap by confronting them with the image of a coin. Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power. Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them. In a certain sense the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler. Where the coin was valid the ruler held political sway over the people. Since the Jews used the Roman currency, Jesus explained that what belonged to Caesar must be given to Caesar.
We have been “stamped” with God’s image and likeness
This story has another deeper meaning as well. We, too, have been stamped with God’s image since we are created in his own likeness – “God created man in his own image ..male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). We rightfully belong not to ourselves, but to God who created us and redeemed us in the precious blood of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Paul the Apostle says that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). Do you acknowledge that your life and everything you possess belongs to God and not to yourself? And do you give to God what rightfully belongs to him?
Daily Quote from the early church fathers: Put off the earthly image and put on the heavenly one, by Origen of Alexandria (185-254 AD)
“Some people think that the Savior spoke on a single level when he said, ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’ – that is, ‘pay the tax that you owe.’ Who among us disagrees about paying taxes to Caesar? The passage therefore has a mystical and secret meaning. There are two images in humanity. One he received from God when he was made, in the beginning, as Scripture says in the book of Genesis, ‘according to the image and likeness of God’ (Genesis 1:27). The other image is of the earth (1 Corinthians 15:49). Man received this second image later. He was expelled from Paradise because of disobedience and sin after the ‘prince of this world’ (John 12:31) had tempted him with his enticements. Just as the coin, or denarius, has an image of the emperor of this world, so he who does the works of ‘the ruler of the darkness’ (Ephesians 6:12) bears the image of him whose works he does. Jesus commanded that that image should be handed over and thrown away from our face. He wills us to take on that image, according to which we were made from the beginning, according to God’s likeness. It then happens that we give ‘to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what is God’s.’ Jesus said, ‘Show me a coin.’ For ‘coin,’ Matthew wrote ‘denarius’ ( Matthew 22:19). When Jesus had taken it, he said, ‘Whose inscription does it have?’ They answered and said, ‘Caesar’s.’ And he said to them in turn, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.'” (excerpt from HOMILY ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 39.4-6)