Church of England Diocese of Bath & Wells St. John the Evangelist, Tatworth

Give to God what is God’s

Give to God what is God’s

by revpbutcher

The Gospel passage below (Mark 12:13-17) is set for today. It tells how we need to recognise what is what and put it in its proper place.

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax[a] to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

17 Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him.

Jesus surprises his audience (who are trying to catch him out) by saying what he says. They are expecting him to denounce the paying of the tax as it may be seen as a submission to a master other than God. They are also expecting him to denounce the coin itself as unclean as it has the engraved image of a person on it - something prohibited under the religious laws of the day. He does neither.

Essentially he says, yes, pay the tax - the coin is just a coin, it is irrelevant in the greater matter of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is of the material world and that is where it stays. But also, do not be ruled by it - i.e. - do not let its usage be the be all and end all of everything. As people of God we are in the world, but we are not purely of the world. We are where we are and we have to engage in the world in a real way, and that means the rules and laws therein. But we are first and foremost of God, and that means also recognising that everything is also ultimately of God.

In our modern world we have so many pressures and calls on our resources and time that it can be hard to put God amongst it, even less put God first. And yet everything we have is primarily from God. Below is a now quite old video, but still packs a punch, on demonstrating how we can get this so wrong.

How do you give to God what is God's? If God came to dinner with a pie, what portion would you serve him?