Render to God What Belongs to Him

Mark 12: 13-17
Tb 2:9-14 / Ps 112:1-2,7-8,9

Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
(Mark 12:17)

In God’s image we were created,
By Christ’s death we have been redeemed,
On these terms we are obligated
To give everything back to Him.

Jesus’ response in Mark 12:17 served not only to confound the trick question of the Pharisees and Herodians, who asked Him,“Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” but more importantly, Jesus’ famous words convey to all Christians our basic obligations to both our Church and our country. The essence of today’s Gospel account is a reminder that if we are to render service and financial support (in the form of taxes) to the state as law-abiding citizens, all the more we should fulfill our duties to God and His Church as full-fledged Christians.

Reflection

It was the perfect trap. Or so it seemed to the pharisees and the Herodians, who, though they hated each other, decided to team up against Jesus Whom they hated more. If Jesus answered ‘Yes’, the pharisees could accuse Him of being a false Messiah, because no Jewish leader would admit subservience to Rome. But if Jesus answered ‘No’ to the payment of taxes to Caesar, then the Herodians would accuse Him of subversion. It was a classic case of ‘damn if you do, and damn if you don’t.’

Jesus’ brilliant response only proved to the pharisees and Herodians the futility of their evil scheme to try to entrap the Son of God. As St. Paul would say it, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1Cor.1:25). When Jesus asked His interrogators for a coin, they immediately handed Him a denarius (a monetary unit issued by Rome). So, when He asked them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ And they said to Him, ‘Caesar’s,’ then Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…’ It was obvious to all His listeners what Jesus was getting at: that by willingly using Rome’s currency, the Jews were already subject to Rome, and it was only fitting to return to their Roman conquerors what belonged to them.

But Jesus also added ‘… and to God what belongs to God.’ And this He most likely addressed as a subtle rebuke to the pharisees, who were not sincerely giving to God His due. It could be addressed to us as well if we have forgotten that we belong to God, made in His image and likeness. We can only give ourselves back to God when we give Him our tithes, to propagate the Good News of salvation; our talents, in the service of His Church; and our precious time, in prayer and meditation of His Word.

Help us, Lord, to see that if we must pay our taxes and other dues to our duly constituted authorities, all the more we should not withold our obligations to You and Your Church. For we do not own what we have, everything belongs to You. Amen.

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