The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”
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 pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Taxation is an old practice of every kingdom or political system. People pay taxes to the king or to the landowner/vassal lord. Taxation is a share that one gives to the central fund of a particular government. But common also to political systems is the tax abuse. Political leaders and monarchs charge more and extract more unjustly from the people, especially the slaves, serfs and peasants. The context of the gospel was during the time of Jesus where Israel was under the rule of the Roman empire, thus, the emperor was the supreme head.
Israel may have a king and a political system of their own but the people of Israel pay taxes to the empire, to Caesar. At the time, tax collectors were perceived by the public as sinners as they were known as collaborators of the empire and were known to be corrupt because of forced collections that involved ghastly amounts. Among the famous tax collectors in the gospel accounts were Matthew and Zaccheus.
The intention of the Pharisees was to entrap Jesus so that they can file charges against him and bring him to court. If Jesus would not recognize the emperor, he can be charged with a grave political case. This was the context of the gospel where the Pharisees plotted against Jesus so they can find a fault where they can charge him. But they all failed with their ill intention and were instead caught by surprise.
Taxation is also about loyalty and allegiance. When one is a citizen of a particular country he/ she is asked to support his/ her country and the most concrete way is paying one’s tax or contribution to the central government to be used for the development of that particular country. The Pharisees asked Jesus if it is lawful to pay taxes to the emperor.
Jesus asked for a coin that is being used to ay census tax and asked of whose image and inscription are there in the coin and they answered, Caesar’s. Then Jesus addressed them and said: “Then pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Today’s gospel tackles the issue of who must one serve. To serve the emperor is the same as serving the Lord. The Lord is over all in charge of all of us. Give your tax to the emperor because that is asked from you and give to God what is due Him. We love and serve God in and through our brothers and sisters.
We always say, the Lord accepts us and understands us because He is God. That is correct, but do we also give back to Him our love and joy for being such a loving and merciful God? When we pray, have we really talked to God like a close friend. When we pray, we converse to God. Do we thank and praise Him before asking something that we need or want? Have we done our part as believers?
Do we offer Him our good works and deeds? When we say, give to God what is due to Him, what do we do? The glory of God is the grace of God we receive every moment of our life. Every time we ask and beg for God’s mercy and compassion, it is because He is love and with love comes kindness, justice, and peace.
Let us please God in our Christian living and witnessing. Let us praise God in our giftedness and limitations. Let us thank God for He is the source of all life and everything. As an individual person, as a family and as a community let us give to God what is due to Him, our hearts burning in love for Him.
Let us pray, reflect and ask ourselves:
Do I pay taxes honestly?
Do I help the government in their programs of total human development and environmental integrity?
Do I give to the Lord all the glory, honor and praise?
Am I living- out my Christian vocation of love and service in my family and community?
Do I give to God what is due to HIM?
Almighty and Ever-living God, help us to be every loyal and faithful to you. Open wide our hearts so we can recognize and receive your abounding love to us. May we praise and glorify you in our lives and in our works. May we do all things that are due for your glory, honor and praise. May we give ourselves totally to you and to you alone. This we ask through Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
Let us pray for those whom we had promised to pray for; may the Lord listen to their prayers and grant their intentions.