Spiritual Enrichment: September 2015
“Caesar seeks his image; render it. God seeks image; render it. Do not withhold from Caesar his coin. Do not keep from God his coin.” – Saint Augustine
In the Gospel according to Mark we are presented with a scene where the Pharisees and Herodians, who are normally enemies, have teamed up in order to try to trick Jesus into saying something that they can use to denounce Him, either to the Jews or the Roman authorities, and have Him put to death. They approach Him and ask whether it is lawful for them to pay a certain tax that was put on all the people who were a part of the Roman Empire, but not Roman citizens. Couched in this question are both religious and political pitfalls: if He answers yes, then this would make Him unpopular in the eyes of the oppressed Jewish population. If, however, He says that they shouldn’t, then it would make Him a law-breaker and a rebel against the ruling Roman Empire. Our Lord, sensing their deception, side-steps their trap all together and gives them an answer with which they can find no fault in at all: “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
It was a very clever trap, but when the conspirators attempted to “ensnare Him in His words,” the Word of God instead reminded them of a fundamental truth: when asked whose image was on the coins used to pay the tax, they answered “Caesar’s.” If his image was on the coins, then they belonged to him. But remember what it says in Genesis 1:26, that we were created in God’s image! When Jesus Christ tells them to give to Caesar the things that are his, He is saying that we do have responsibilities and obediences in this world, and that is okay. These things do not hinder us in our attempts to be obedient to God, and in fact, they can help.
We have many different responsibilities in our lives, from taking care of our families, to doing the things asked of us in our jobs, and we can often feel like these things are taking up the precious time we have to spend in prayer or in worship. However, if we try to look at these situations with the phronema of the servant-Christ, then they can in fact become for us prayer and worship. The psalms say that a humble heart is a sacrifice to God, and the prophet Samuel relates that to obey is, in God’s eyes, better than a good sacrifice. One way that we can demonstrate our humility is through serving and graciously fulfilling our obediences, and humility is a requirement for love, both of others and of God. When viewed this way, rendering to “Caesar” becomes at the same time giving to God what belongs to him: that coin that is our soul and that bears His image!
Reading: Mark 12:13-17, Psalm 50:16, 17 (LXX) and 1 Kings (Samuel) 15:22
Prayer: Heavenly King, please give us the strength and humility to fulfill both our earthly and heavenly obligations. Help us to imitate Your Son, who has shown to us that through obedience we can gain eternal life. Accept our sacrifice, for You are holy, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen
Zacharias Thornbury is a fourth-year seminarian at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. He and his wife are from the church of Holy Transfiguration in Marietta, GA. They have two children; Elijah, who is 4, and Kassiani, who is 2.