Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. Matthew 22:21
Almighty and everlasting God,
in Christ you have revealed your glory among
the nations: grant that your church throughout
the world may persevere with steadfast faith
in proclaiming the cross to be the way that
leads to life eternal; through Jesus Christ our
Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
- Exodus 33:12-23
- Psalm 99
- 1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
- Matthew 22:15-33
- Deut 34:1-12
- Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
- 1 Thessalonians 2:1-13
- Matthew 22:34-46
A Thought to Ponder
Pentecost 20 Matthew 22:15-33
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
In today’s Gospel, two opponents of Jesus, the Pharisees and Herodians (supporters of Herod’s dynasty), join forces to trap Jesus. If Jesus affirms that taxes should be paid, he alienates the religious nationalists; if he denies that taxes should be paid, then he is subject to arrest by the Romans as a political revolutionary. But the very fact that his inquisitors could produce the emperor’s coin from one of their purses was to admit a Roman obligation: If one used the sovereign’s coin then one automatically took on an obligation to the sovereign; in other words, the Pharisees and Herodians, in trying to trap Jesus, answered their own question. But Jesus takes the debate to an even higher level by challenging them to be just as observant in paying their debt to God.
The confrontation over Caesar’s coin is not a solution to any church-versus-state controversy; Jesus’ response to the Pharisees confronts them – and us – with the demand to act out of our convictions and to take responsibility for our actions.
Jesus appeals to us to look beyond the simplistic politics and black-and-white legalisms represented by the coin and realise that we are called to embrace the values centered in a faith that sees the hand of God in all things and every human being as part of a single family under the providence of God.
The Pharisees who confront Jesus with Caesar’s coin are trying to trap him into making a choice between one’s country and God. But Jesus’ response indicates that one’s citizenship does not have to be at odds with one’s faith; in fact, when government seeks to provide for the just welfare of its citizens, it becomes a vehicle for establishing the reign of God.
God and Caesar do not have to be at odds, Jesus tells the Pharisees. In God, we realise the dignity of every man, woman and child as sons and daughters of God and our brothers and sisters; in setting up systems of government, we provide for the common good of one another and protect the welfare of all, providing for public safety, educational opportunities and clean water and air. Jesus’ answers are not the clear, unambiguous solutions we hope for to these and many other questions. But his response is the heart of living our faith: the struggle to return to God what is God’s. Through prayer and discernment, each one of us has to do for ourselves the hard work of deciding exactly what is God’s will in our complex world of politics, money and human relationships.
You can read the Pew Sheet herePentecost-20-A