29th Sunday (A) Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar: Matthew 22:15-21
In our country these days, we are anticipating the Presidential election with varied opinions and emotions. The economy is one of the top issues for voters in the 2020 election. Both political party candidates, Republicans, and Democrat have hot and heavy discussions and debates about cutting taxes. Both candidates are promising to cut taxes. When we hear their speeches, we are tempted to dream that in the future, we won’t have to pay any taxes!
So, this is a good time to hear the somewhat rare political comments Jesus makes in today’s gospel about paying taxes. The self-righteous scribes and Pharisees tried to entrap Jesus by asking a question. “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus’ answer was: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and Give to God what belongs to God.” His answer was not just clever; it had a very basic message that we often forget: God is in control, not human beings. If we are faithful to God and work within our situations, God will do the rest for us. Jesus’ answer shows that if the scribes and Pharisees are so concerned and careful about paying taxes to the state, they should be much more concerned and careful about their service to God, and their obligations to God, as their Creator and Lord.
Today’s Gospel makes it very clear that we have two responsibilities: to the government of our country and to God. A loyal Christian is always a loyal citizen. Failure in good citizenship is also a failure in Christian duty. Consequently, we give taxes to the government but we give ourselves to God. This means; our time, talents, treasure, and everything we have to share generously with our brothers and sisters. In this way, we are expressing our gratitude to God.
Each person is a “coin of God” and belongs to God and God has stamped the divine image onto each of us. Each of us is a treasure and valuable to God as such, we are invited, indeed obliged to offer our primary and total loyalty to God. We belong to God and so are “Citizens of God”. We cannot change this citizenship. People can change the country of their citizenship as they move from one country to another country or some can even have dual citizenship. For Christians, God is first more than nations or kingdoms, political or economic systems, institutions, or ideologies. We work hard, pay taxes, and become responsible and good citizens.
When we violate the divine image in our lives, we have the obligation to come back to God. In doing so, we are “repaying” to God what is God’s. Let us try to “repay” to God through our repentant hearts, good actions, and by making good choices in our everyday lives. As Saint Paul tells us, “True witness to Christ will express faith in action, living in hope, and acting in love.” Let us try to follow the example of Saint Thomas Moore, who gave his life, rather than compromise his faith. He left us these words: “I die the King’s good servant, but God is first.”