Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality.
Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
It’s Catch 22 for Jesus. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor? If he says ‘no’ he could be reported as a traitor and agitator against Rome. The penalty for such a crime was execution. If on the other hand he says ‘yes’ he may be called a blasphemer, disloyal to Israel, a lover of Rome. It seems impossible to get out of this unscathed.
Still Jesus outwits his hearers. “Whose head and title are on the coin?” “The emperor’s”, they say. “Well, then, give the emperor what belongs to the emperor and give God what belongs to God.” Brilliant answer. The end!
But is it really that simple?
Are we to separate matters of faith from the secular? Is the old saying right that politics and religion should not mix? Has our faith nothing to say about how we use the money in our bank accounts?
For what in this world belongs to God?
Psalm 24 reminds us that “The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.”
There is nothing that truly belongs to the rulers of this world, or to us. All that we have is graciously given to us from God, to use for his glory. Thus everything we have and everything we do, from how we handle our money, to the way that financial systems operate and the way that rulers exercise their power, come under the reign and lordship of our God.
This is no more than a call to give all that we have and all that we are to God. For we are his people, to be spent in his service.
What would our world look like if we viewed our lives and the resources at our disposal as gifts to be shared for the good of our neighbours?
We belong to you. Help us to live as those who believe that everything is gift from you. Save us from clinging on to the blessings we have received, lest we become selfish and lacking in compassion. Help us to look at our talents, our time and our bank balance as ours to use for the growth of your Kingdom.
The Rev’d Camilla Veitch, Minister Wirksworth and North Derbyshire Resource Area