The psalmist could have been thinking of Tobit when he states that the man is blessed who “lavishly” gives to the poor. Good works do not disappear. Generosity endures forever. God does not forget what Jesus would later describe as that which is done to the smallest, the least. For our part, we fear the Lord, delight in his commands, and trust God. God promises to bless, grant posterity to, and exalt the just one.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were sure that people were out to get you? Jesus certainly had days like that. The gospels are filled with incidents where someone wants to kill him, trap him, trick him, or, as in the case of today’s reading, “ensnare him in his speech.” So, what type of snare do they come up with this time? First, they heap praise on him, none of which they actually believe. “You are a truthful man, you aren’t concerned about peoples’ opinions, you don’t care about a person’s status, but you teach God’s truthful way.” Where I come from, this would cause you to start looking around to see who is holding the knife.
The double-edged knife came, alright, in the form of a question that cut you no matter how you answered it. “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” If Jesus says, “No,” then he is guilty of treason. If he says, “Yes,” then he is looked upon as a collaborator with the occupation forces, one who won’t stand up for God and God’s people. How do you answer hypocrites who pretend to praise you but are really trying to get you in trouble? Jesus changed the focus of the discussion. The point they use to snare him is that deciding to pay the tax or not determines your loyalty to God. Jesus rejects this starting point. Asking for a coin, he says, “Whose image and inscription is this?” “Caesar’s,” they answer. Well, then, if his image is on it, it belongs to him, so pay it back to him. On the other hand, what has God’s image on it? Men and women: we have been made in the image of God. Then pay that back to God, Jesus says. The image of Caesar belongs to Caesar. The image of God belongs to God. Pay the rightful owner whatever belongs to them.The people were amazed at Jesus. I, too, am amazed. I was amazed on April 15th (“tax day” in the U.S.) when I managed to pay Caesar. Now, if I can just pay God…
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