Render to God

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.

They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to ensnare Jesus in His words. They came to Him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” He asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and He asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. (Mark 12:13-17)

Reflection

The Pharisees were the puritanical religious leaders of the Jews who hated the Romans, while the Herodians, followers of the half-Jew King Herod, were supporters of Rome. Although they hated each other, they decided to team up against Jesus Whom they hated more. And it seemed like the perfect set-up for both groups. 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 clearly a trick question meant to trap the Teacher. But 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, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1Cor.1:25). When Jesus asked for a coin, they handed Him a denarius (a monetary unit issued by Rome). So, when He asked them, ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ they said to Him, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…’ All were amazed because it was obvious to them 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.

Jesus always took the occasion to deliver His Word to all generations. His response in Mark 12:17 served not only to confound the hypocrites, but more importantly, to convey to all Christians our basic obligations to both Church and country. The essence of today’s Gospel 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 in the form of tithes. He is also reminding us that we belong to HIM, made in His image and likeness. We can only give ourselves back to God when we give Him our treasure, to propagate the Good News of salvation; our talents, in the service of His Church and our community; 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 withhold our obligations to You and Your Church. For we do not own what we have, everything belongs to You. Amen.

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