“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s”

The Pharisees and the Herodians thought they had trapped Jesus when they asked Him whether or not they should pay taxes to the Roman emperor. If Jesus told them to pay taxes to the oppressive Roman government, then He would lose His popularity with the masses. This popularity protected Jesus from being arrested by the Jewish leaders. If Jesus lost His popularity, it would be much easier for the Jews to arrest Him.

On the other hand, if Jesus told the people not to pay taxes, then the Romans would be compelled to arrest Jesus, despite the crowds. Then the Jewish religious leaders would have gotten rid of Jesus by using the Romans to do their “dirty work.”

Jesus escaped the trap by saying: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s” (Mk 12:17). The masses were pleased that Jesus did not tell them to pay taxes, and the Romans did not have the Jewish background to fully understand exactly what Jesus was saying to the people.

We are like coins. The image of God is stamped on us at Baptism. We were sealed with the Holy Spirit at Confirmation. The image and seal proves to the world that God owns us.

Like cattle branded with the mark of their owner, people who saw the Roman coin could tell whose image was on it, and to whom it ultimately belonged. The Roman coin was stamped with Caesar’s image. Therefore, Jesus said it ultimately belonged to Caesar and should be given to Him. By implication, Jesus says that we who are stamped with the image and likeness of God must give to God what belongs to Him, our lives. We must reflect God’s image to the world and enhance His image by the quality of our lives offered for Him.

Coins are circulated throughout the world by normal human activity. Likewise, we who are stamped with God’s image are to be in circulation by going out into the world to be salt and light for Jesus. Have we been so worn down that God’s image is no longer visible to a world that unknowingly longs for Him? Or will we be in “mint condition” for the Lord so that all can see His glory shining in our lives?


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