A Reflection on the Readings for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 22, 2023
In our Gospel for this Sunday, we find the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus with this question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” As usual, Jesus answers a question with a question, “Whose image is on the Roman coin and whose inscription?” They answer, “Caesar.” Jesus replies, “Then repay what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
However, in the Roman world, Caesar was considered a god; he lorded over everything within his empire. He kept his empire civil by governing with laws and protecting his army from outside invaders. But to Jews, he was obviously considered a false god because they understood the difference between Ceasar and the one true God. They knew that not everything came from Caesar, nor did Caesar have the ability to create life, only the ability to destroy it, and if you didn’t want to be destroyed, then you paid the tax.
So, how are we to understand Jesus’ response? His answer tells us that, yes, we are to obey our civic duties and laws, pay our taxes, and live as contributing members of society, but also, more importantly, we are to give back to God what belongs to God.
Then the question becomes for us, “What belongs to God?” … The answer: Everything! Everything we have comes from and belongs to God: ourselves, our lives, our families, our homes, our cars, our education, our jobs, our bank accounts, our world, and every good thing in it.
Therefore, to help us worship Him and not worship all these other things as false gods, to help us worship the Creator instead of the created things, He asks us for just a portion of our blessings that He has given us to be given back to Him in “Christian Stewardship.” He simply asks us for a portion, not all of it, just a portion of our time, a portion of our talent and a portion of our treasure.
Why? … Well, it’s for our good! To help us NOT worship the created things, to help us NOT to give them priority over the one true God. To keep us free from serving, idolizing, and worshipping things, to keep us from being controlled by things. It’s to help us serve, worship, and trust the one true God. This is what living “Christian Stewardship” does for us. God’s plan for our life is laid out for us for our own good.
Deacon Jeff Borski