29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S AND TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S”
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s… and to God what is God’s.” This verse is most often quoted by some politicians, rulers and opinion makers as they accuse the Church of interfering in politics. When, for example, the Bishops’ Conference issues fearless statements against some abuses of the government, some politicians, rulers and even opinion makers often reply by quoting this passage. Did not the bible say to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s—meaning the whole sphere of civil, economic and social affairs. And to God what belongs to God—meaning the sphere of spiritual affairs? So don’t meddle in politics!
The Pharisees who asked Jesus a question about taxes were interested in one thing: getting Jesus in trouble with the authorities. They wanted to trap Jesus. “Is it lawful to pay tax to the Romans or not?” If he said “yes,” they could have declared him a collaborator and a Roman sympathizer. He would be a Jew telling people to be in the side of their oppressors. If he said “No,” then they would have run to the Romans telling them that he was preaching sedition. Jesus resolved the question with a simple, but profound answer: “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
Jesus saw their ploy, but instead of ignoring or humiliating them, he taught them a lesson. And that lesson is as valid today as it was twenty centuries ago: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God. This leads us to reflect on how we carry out our responsibilities to our country and to our God.
Jesus’ answer to the entrapment of the Pharisees expresses a very profound principle, namely, that we are citizens of two worlds:
- 1) the world we see (body and matter);
- 2) the unseen world of the spirit… and we have duties to both worlds—to the state and to God.
- – In so far as possible, be loyal to earthly governments, be responsible, participative and honest citizens.
- – But when the government becomes corrupt; when it threatens the family and freedom; when it becomes the source of injustice and corruption; when it condones prostitution, gambling, drugs, violence, criminality, immorality… then we have the duty to correct the government. Not to condemn the government but to be part of the healing process. We could not simply remain silent and indifferent… we have to pronounce our stand on moral issues.
Over and above everything and everyone is the priority that should be given to GOD and the SOUL.
God does not need our taxes. He does not need our votes either. But God deserves our SOUL… for our souls were made for Him. And so our souls should never be given to any human institution.
If the government, your job, your loyalty to a politician or any human relationships demand your soul, say NO. Your soul belongs to God alone. In the end, our earthly citizenship will end, while our heavenly citizenship will last forever.
Even if they crucify you for that answer, as did our Lord, you will never regret that choice. Jesus was a man of controversy. He argued with public authorities. He publicly badmouthed a king. He picked up a whip to expel greedy bankers from His Temple. He was concerned not merely with the souls of people but their bodies as well. He performed miracles to feed them when hungry and cure them when sick.
When it comes to things that are God’s, there are no compromises.
Total and absolute loyalty and service is a debt that we owe to God and to God alone.
That is how we can render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.