Meditation: What do we owe God and our neighbor?
Scripture tells us to give to everyone whatever is their due and to
"owe no one anything, except to love one another" (Romans 13:6-8). The
Jewish authorities sought to trap Jesus in a religious-state issue. The
Jews resented their foreign rulers and despised paying taxes to Caesar.
They posed a dilemma to test Jesus to see if he was loyal to them and
to their understanding of religion. If Jesus answered that it was
lawful to pay taxes to a pagan ruler, then he would lose credibility
with the Jewish nation who would regard him as a coward and a friend of
Caesar. If he said it was not lawful, then the Pharisees would have
grounds to report him to the Roman authorities as a political
trouble-maker and have him arrested.
Coins inscribe the owner's name and authority on them
Jesus avoided their trap by confronting them with the image of a coin. Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power. Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them. In a certain sense the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler. Where the coin was valid the ruler held political sway over the people. Since the Jews used the Roman currency, Jesus explained that what belonged to Caesar must be given to Caesar.
We have been "stamped" with God's image and likeness
This story has another deeper meaning as well. We, too, have been stamped with God's image since we are created in his own likeness - "God created man in his own image ..male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:26-27). We rightfully belong not to ourselves, but to God who created us and redeemed us in the precious blood of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Paul the Apostle says that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1). Do you acknowledge that your life and everything you possess belongs to God and not to yourself? And do you give to God what rightfully belongs to him?
"Lord, because you have made me, I owe you the whole of my love; because you have redeemed me, I owe you the whole of myself; because you have promised so much, I owe you all my being. Moreover, I owe you as much more love than myself as you are greater than I, for whom you gave yourself and to whom you promised yourself. I pray you, Lord, make me taste by love what I taste by knowledge; let me know by love what I know by understanding. I owe you more than my whole self, but I have no more, and by myself I cannot render the whole of it to you. Draw me to you, Lord, in the fullness of love. I am wholly yours by creation; make me all yours, too, in love." (prayer of Anselm, 1033-1109 AD)
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/