Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
The Pharisees never disappoint; they don’t relent. They tried to trap Jesus once again by placing him in the middle of a very controversial matter, paying taxes to the Romans. They began by calling him Master! This was a hypocritical compliment, “Master.” Giving a personal, yet public opinion on such a divisive issue would have had Jesus choosing one of two unacceptable positions. This is no choice at all.
Jesus responded, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” With this unexpected response, Jesus not only skilfully avoided the trap set for him, but also used the opportunity to bring awareness to and to teach the importance of obeying the laws of the land. This is with the idea that we have a moral obligation and civic responsibility to adhere to the laws of the land, since God and Caesar are not in conflict.
Jesus did not condemn their so-called malicious inquiry, but added God to bring a sense of balance. He did not highlight one above the other or picture “warring parties,” Caesar vs. God. Rather, he says, give to Caesar the things of Caesar . . . and give to God the things of God.
We often speak of Caesar and God in opposition. We often talk about divided loyalties. We speak about declaring a position, stating a viewpoint, and so on. Jesus demonstrates it is about integration. Serving God demands that we give our hearts, lives, properties . . . in short, all things . . . to God, including our civic responsibilities. There is absolutely no separation. Serving God demands giving all.
Rowan Simmons, pastor, New Dawn Moravian Church