I have with me some ancient coins. They date to the 4th century, so they are after Jesus' time, but you can get a sense of what it meant for Jesus to take a coin and say "repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar." Not much has changed, as you can see. Even today Jesus would say repay to Lincoln, or Washington, or Jefferson, or Franklin what belongs to them and to God what belongs to God. We still have the same unspoken question from today’s gospel as well: What belongs to God?
Does Jesus tell us in this passage what belongs to God? No, he doesn't. We can imply a few things though. First, Jesus bases his wisdom on an image. Now, if I asked you whose image and likeness am I made in, what would you say? God's, yes. All the saints have echoed through the centuries that yes, that indeed, we totally belong to God. But does everyone know this? Does everyone believe it? Do we?
The prophet Isaiah gives us this message from God today: "I have called you by your name, giving you a title, though you knew me not" (Is 45:5). God recognizes his image in us and his unique gift to us. The question for us is how do we identify that which we are uniquely called to?
It comes down to freedom. Holy freedom. First, just as Jesus is not burdened by Roman coins, we need to detach from what may be making a claim on how or why we live. Status, power, money, fame etc... These can mold us into something very different then the intended image. They can deface us. Stillness, silence, prayer, faith, hope, love... These define us.
Freedom allows us to ask the question 'how much of a claim does God have on my life?' and we can answer it however we choose.
I think the reason we ought to choose God is simple. His return policy is very forgiving. If I fail pursuing money and power, then I’m poor and powerless. Status, power, fame will not come back to assist me if I fail in the pursuit of them. If I fail in faith, hope, and love God still sees his image in me and reaffirms it by absolving how I have defaced it. Jesus bailed us out.
Now, we have to answer the question: how much of a claim does God have on your life?
What has been your answer this past week? Was God's image defaced or defined in you?
Blessed be God forever.
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6, Psalm 96, 1 Thessalonians 1:1-5b, Matthew 22:15-21