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 repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.”
22:16 Herodians Likely refers to Jews who supported Herod Antipas and, by extension, Roman rule. This is the only mention of this group in Matthew’s Gospel. we know that you are truthful This flattery is intended to provoke Jesus into criticizing imperial taxes.
22:17 Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar A clever query. Answering yes could discredit Jesus among the people for supporting the empire, but answering no would incriminate Him for opposing it.
22:21 repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar Jesus brilliantly avoids the Pharisees’ trap. Since the coin bears Caesar’s image, it belongs to him. However, God should likewise be given His due—the faithful obedience of humanity, which bears His image (Gen 1:27).
Friends, in our Gospel today, Pharisees try to catch Jesus on the horns of a dilemma. Jesus deftly escapes from the trap with one of his famous one-liners: “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Clever, but much more than merely clever. In some ways, it is the implicit resolution of this very vexing problem.
We should not read this one-liner as though there is a clearly demarcated political realm that belongs to the Caesars of the world and a clearly demarcated spiritual realm that belongs to God. And we certainly shouldn’t read it in the modern mode—that the public arena belongs to politics, while religion is relegated to the private dimension.
No, this won’t do, precisely because God is God. Not a being in or above the world, not one reality among many; God is the sheer act of being itself, which necessarily pervades, influences, grounds, and has to do with everything, even as he transcends everything in creation.
God is the deepest source and inspiration for everything in life, from sports to law to the arts to science and medicine. God is love itself. Everything comes from God and returns to God.
– Bishop Robert Barron
May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.