“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus’ enemies hoped that they might find an occasion to accuse Him. Jesus, the founder of the Christian faith, was being questioned by the Jewish authorities regarding a tribute tax to Caesar. Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus was saying that His religious teachings were separate from the earthly politics. This reflects traditional Christian thought, where by Church and state are separate. This has been the common argument from our President here in Uganda these days, as he tries to keep the religious leaders from commenting on the evils they see taking place in our country.  For the most part Christians have based their attitudes toward government on this passage. The accepted theology here is that Jesus’ statement establishes two separate realms, Caesar’s and God’s, and that people should render to each what they ask for in their respective realms. This passage has come to be understood as recognizing the existence of two distinct authorities, one spiritual and the other political. The establishment of a separate Church and State has been established all over the world. With it comes the freedom to practice a religion without government intervention.

It could also be that Jesus was advocating a life of voluntary poverty. Are we to heed Caesar, when he says to go to war or support war-making, when Jesus said that we must not kill? No! We may refuse to serve Caesar. But, the fact is that, by our lifestyles, we have made a deal with Caesar to support our lifestyle. Now, when he wants to be paid back, it’s a little late to say that we don’t owe him anything. Whatever our interpretation, one thing is for sure: nothing is more likely to ensnare the followers of Christ, than encouraging them to meddle in disputes about worldly politics.

You know, if I had the opportunity to ask Jesus a question, I would hope it would not be a trick question.  The Pharisees miss an incredible opportunity.  Instead of asking Christ a meaningful question, they try to trick him.  It has become a contest and they want to win. It is so easy for our focus to move from Christ to the world.  If the focus is on the world, we’ll be worried about winning.  If the focus is on the world, even if we win, we will only receive what the world has to offer.

The question put to Christ verifies the reality that though we may be already in eternity, our feet are planted on the earth. This gospel gives us a chance to reflect on how we are doing with our responsibilities, not just our rights as citizens. For example, if able, do we involve ourselves in meeting the needs of our immediate and extended families and those of our neighbors and friends? Do we keep up with the local and national news and exercise our right to vote on local and national issues? Do we work at building up our faith community so as to continue the mission of Christ? Do we keep the laws of the land, local and national? The list could go on. We can’t get to our destination if we don’t immerse ourselves in the journey.


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