Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God, Jesus says. This was in response to the Pharisees who were plotting to trap Jesus asking, “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.” Then He said to the, “give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s”
Was this the beginning of separation of church and state? Jesus was not advocating for the separation of church and state, or any other policy. Rather, Christ was challenging his hearers to consider the focus of their greatest allegiance.
When Christ says to the people, give to God what belongs to God, He is saying in essence that all of our lives are to be a living sacrifice to God alone. We have to decide who we are going to give our lives to. We have to sort out our loyalties. We have to decide for ourselves what it is that bears God’s image.
When others look at you, what do they see? Are you a taxpayer and citizen of the United States first and foremost, or are you a Christian and a citizen of God’s kingdom? The kingdoms of this world are all about power, oppression, and violence. But Jesus teaches us that the kingdom of God is about peace, justice, mercy and life. How are we, as Christians, advocating for peace in our world? Do we speak out about inequality, do we give voice to the voiceless? What are we doing to serve the homeless; not just in terms of giving them an occasional meal as we do in the Soup Kitchen but actually working toward long-term and sustainable solutions for them? More recently, do we speak out about the children brought to this country through no fault of their own, “The Dreamers?”
Then there’s mercy. Our natural, human reaction is to respond in anger toward those who harm us. Christ teaches us that we are to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.” Do you show love and mercy, or do you perpetuate the ways of the world? What about life? Christ came so that we might have an abundant life. These are the things that matter. What matters is that we live our lives as citizens of God’s kingdom.
Indeed, the image of God in this world can often be difficult to discern. When we look at each other or even observe ourselves in the mirror, we tend to see the marks of the world upon us. We are what we look like, what we have, what we wear, what we do and the friends we have. What we need to see is that underneath all those things is a much deeper mark; the image of the cross engrained upon our hearts and our lives. Christ shining through us. This is the image that God sees among His people and it is that image which God desires us to reflect to the world.
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Do you bear the image of God?