“I am the Lord and there is no other” (Is 45:6).
The prophet Isaiah tells us, in simple yet weighty words, that God’s power is universal, loving and mysterious. Earthly power comes from God alone, Isaiah reminds the Israelites and us.
To confess God’s almighty power has profound meaning for life. For in confessing that God is the source of all power, we place ourselves in the merciful hands of God, with complete trust and humble thanksgiving.
It is this Christian attitude of deep trust and thanksgiving to God that St. Paul finds and praises in today’s second reading. The apostle describes the Thessalonians as an early Christian community whose faith, hope and love of Jesus Christ radiated from their words and actions. That was the authentic path of Christian life then and it remains the essence of every Christian community today.
But how are we to balance being disciples of Jesus Christ and being good citizens of society and the world? Jesus offers the religious leaders of his day an answer to this perennial problem by answering their question with a question. Jesus asks them to produce a coin used to pay taxes.
He asks them to describe the coin — “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” (Mt 22:20). He then tells them that the coin that bears the image and name of Caesar should be given to Caesar while reminding them of their religious obligations as well. “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Mt 22:22).
Jesus confronts them and us with the deepest question of all. Do we give to God what rightfully belongs to him — the gift of our entire heart, mind and soul?
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day set up their question in such a way that one had to choose between loyalty to political power or faithfulness to God. They create an either-or situation, a false dilemma between choosing to pay taxes, as good citizens would do, and serving God with one’s words and actions.
Jesus’ answer cuts through their false dilemma to show that it is not an either-or situation. Rather, we strive to be both law-abiding citizens and people of faith who love God and neighbor. We do so knowing that serving God is our highest priority.
Faith requires that we are good citizens. For Christians live in this world, but not of it. Followers of Jesus are often faced with difficult decisions. There are so many “Caesars” competing for our allegiance.
As we give to “Caesar,” God’s word today reminds us to not waver in our faithfulness to God in word and deed. May we never stop giving to God what belongs to God who is the origin and end, the meaning and purpose of existence.
Today let us pray for the strength to persevere as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ so we can say together in faith, “speak to me, Lord.”