Render unto Caeser
We often hear the litany of ‘Protecting the taxpayer money’ from the politicians and leaders of our time. They know that we’re all invested in the use of that money that we’ve earned because deep down, we don’t really like paying taxes but we bear with it because we see the benefits of supporting education, infrastructure and everything else.
Money has a unique effect on us because it can give us a sense of security and happiness, if it’s spent correctly, and in a world where we’re confronted regularly by violence and depression, money can feel like an escape.
Today in our Gospel, the Pharisees and the Herodians banded together to catch Jesus out in a trap. Now, trying to catch Jesus out in the first place is always a bad idea, but the trap itself was a good attempt. The trap was pretty simple, but the ramifications would have misplaced Jesus. The Pharisees and Herodians were trying to get Jesus to answer with a ‘Yes or No’ because they reasoned that either answer would get Jesus in trouble. If Jesus answered with a ‘Yes’, he could have been accused by fellow Jews as being a Roman sympathiser. If Jesus answered with a ‘No’, he could have then been accused by the Romans for sedition or rebellion by the Herodians.
But true to his wisdom and brilliance, the Son of God does something profound when given the coin.
Jesus asks, ‘Whose head is on this? Whose name?’ Our translation slightly falls short because the Greek word used for head here is “eikon” which means, likeness or image. So Jesus asks, whose image/likeness is on this? The answer being Caesar. But the intentional use of ‘eikon’ here calls to mind the Creation account in Genesis, when the same word is used to say that man and woman were created in the ‘eikon’ of God. So with one stroke of brilliance, Jesus responds with ‘‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.”
Jesus affirms that they do have to pay taxes and be contributing members of society but what he’s really saying to the Pharisees here is that, you can give your money to Caesar but you need to
give your life to God.
Money comes and it goes, it can also alleviate some of the tensions we feel in our day, and help us when we’re in need, but our true security and happiness lies in God. In the coming week, especially as we might struggle through financial and societal issues, may we remember that we belong to God, and that God protects us. When we feel the tensions of our time, let us give ourselves more readily to God and rely on the providence of our Lord who gives us good gifts.
Fr William Aupito Iuliano