The Gospel of Luke:a commentary & meditation

"Give to God the things that are God's"

Scripture: Luke 20:19-26

19 The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people; for they perceived that he had  told this parable against them. 20 So they watched him, and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might take hold of what he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. 21 They asked him, "Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?" 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, 24 "Show me a coin. Whose likeness and inscription has it?" They said, "Caesar's." 25 He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him by what he said; but marveling at his answer they were silent.

Meditation:  What do we owe God and neighbor but to love and to give each what is their due (Romans 13:6-8)? The Jewish authorities sought to trap Jesus in a religious-state issue. The Jews resented their foreign rulers and despised paying taxes to Cesar. They posed a dilemma to test Jesus to see if he was loyal to their understanding of religion.  If Jesus answered that it was lawful to pay taxes to a pagan ruler, then he would lose credibility with the Jewish populace who would regard him as a coward and a friend of Cesar.  If he said it was not lawful, then the Pharisees would have grounds to report him to the Roman authorities as a political trouble-maker and have him arrested. Jesus avoided their trap by confronting them with the image of a coin.  Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power. Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them. In a certain sense the coin was regarded as his personal property.  Where the coin was valid the ruler held political sway over the people.  Since the Jews used the Roman currency, Jesus explained that what belonged to Caesar must be given to Caesar.  This story has another deeper meaning as well. We, too, have been stamped with Godís image since we are created in his own likeness (Genesis 1:26-27). We rightfully belong, not to ourselves, but to God who created us and redeemed us in the precious blood of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Cor. 6:19-20).  Paul the Apostle says that we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1).  Do you acknowledge that your life belongs to God and not to yourself?  And do you give to God what rightfully belongs to Him?

"Lord, because you have made me, I owe you the whole of my love; because you have redeemed me, I owe you the whole of myself; because you have promised so much, I owe you all my being.  Moreover, I owe you as much more love than myself as you are greater than I, for whom you gave yourself and to whom you promised yourself.  I pray you, Lord, make me taste by love what I taste by knowledge; let me know by love what I know by understanding.  I owe you more than my whole self, but I have no more, and by myself I cannot render the whole of it to you.  Draw me to you, Lord, in the fullness of love.  I am wholly yours by creation; make me all yours, too, in love."  (prayer of Anselm, 1033-1109)


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 (c) 1999, 2000 Don Schwager