Today’s Gospel: Matthew 22:15-21
In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees confront Jesus on whether or not it was lawful for a Jew to pay Roman taxes. The famous exchange follows;
Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.”
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
They replied, “Caesar’s.”
At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Jesus conveys a lot of meaning in a very few words. Perhaps his first intention was communicate to the Pharisees that it was not possible to trap him with words. After dismissing their attempt to do so, Jesus moves beyond confrontation and provides them with a beautiful lesson.
On the surface, the lesson seems to be about the problem of living in the world and honoring God at the same time. He seems to be warning us that we were born in to the world and must confront the world on its own terms. He rejects the Pharisees assertion that you could not submit to Roman rule and be a good Jew.
But when Jesus points out that Roman currency bears the image and inscription of Caesar, he also warns us that there is an element of idolatry in money (for us it’s not Caesar, it’s Ben Franklin) . It’s as if he’s saying “ This object honors someone other than God, so why would you want to keep it?”
Am I a good steward of the resources that God has given me? I have to live in the real world. But how easy is it to place too much emphasis on money and to little emphasis on God. How much time did I spend in prayer today? How much time did I spend thinking about money, shopping or daydreaming about that next major purchase?
God, I am forever in your debt , only through your forgiveness can I repay that debt in full.
Copyright 2014 Kirk Whitney