Caesar or God?

10-22-2023Pastor's LetterVery Rev. Richard C. Wilson, VF, Pastor

Dear Friends in Christ,

The Pharisees come up with a new plan to try to trap Jesus during one of their debates by bringing up the hot topic of paying taxes. They inquire, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Jesus ably distinguishes between the rights of God and human authority; clearly pointing out that we are bound by our conscience to be honest with God and with others.

Jesus is praised for his honesty by his enemies: “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.” Christ isn’t fooled. Moreover, he makes use of the Pharisees’ challenge to teach us a lesson about our religious and political behavior. Instead of causing division he reconciles people by means of sound reasoning. He said to them “whose image is this and whose inscription?” they replied “Caesar’s.” And at that he said to them, “then pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

The coin that the Pharisees showed Jesus had two sides: on one side was the face of Caesar and on the other was the numerical value of the coin. But although there are two sides, there is only one coin. “Give to God what is God’s” is not an alternative to “giving to Caesar.” A Christian should work for progress and well-being, but always in accordance with the Gospel precepts. Moreover, when the Church proclaims the Gospel, she is reminding society that God should always come first. In our own Christian lives, we need to place more value on spiritual realities and be detached from material possessions.

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” means recognizing the legitimate rights and duties of civil authorities and setting up the right balance between our faith and our societal responsibilities. You shouldn’t “give to the Caesar of economy” and ignore the rights of life, work, education, and the dignity of the human person. You shouldn’t “give to the Caesar of power or success” by neglecting other people who are hungry or impoverished or who are victims of war and terrorism.

St. Paul exhorted the Philippians to “ blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” (Philippians 2:15d, 16a)

May we listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit that we might “shine like stars in the world.”

All the best…in Christ,

Father Wilson