I always smile when I hear this Gospel because it reminds me so much of what you hear on the TV and radio when someone being interviewed is pushed into a corner and the journalist tries to force them to give a yes or no answer. ‘Do you agree with this proposal or not, yes or no?’ They try to catch people out. They were doing the same thing 2000 years ago at the time of Jesus too. Should we pay taxes or not; yes or no? If Jesus answered yes he was acknowledging the Roman occupation, if he said no, he was insulting the emperor. But in his wisdom he gives a response which completely catches them out because he looks at it from a totally different perspective. He basically says, ‘Who do you belong to?’ It is right that we respect the laws and customs of the country we live in, but if we see ourselves as children of God primarily, then our loyalty belongs to God first. We pay our debts to our society and government through taxes and working to make it a better society because we have a duty to do so, but our goal is a much greater one than this world. Using our gifts and talents gives glory to the Father in heaven who has given us all these gifts. And it is good that we develop our talents to the best of our ability.
We often hear about the importance of protecting and saving American lives and trying to improve the American economy and there is nothing wrong with that. But a Christian perspective reaches farther and so we talk about the importance of protecting human lives, not just people who belong to one country or another. We take pride in our own nation and so we should, but faith transcends borders and doesn’t, or certainly shouldn’t discriminate between different people. We see ourselves as children of God first, regardless of where we come from and regardless of what we believe. Ultimately we believe we will end up in the same place with God if we make that choice.
Coming here to the US from Ireland has helped me to see that in a new light. I take pride in my country as all of us do, but it is a wonderful thing to be able to go to another country and preach the same message of Jesus there, regardless of different customs and laws. The laws of God don’t change. The call of Jesus is the same to us no matter where we come from and how we see the world and there is a great freedom in that. Politics changes and governments come and go, but the presence of Jesus is the same everywhere and is much greater than anything we will ever encounter in this world.
Who do we belong to? The money is stamped with a government mark. It belongs to the government. What stamp is on us?
Sometimes one of the things that happens when we are faced with something like Ebola and all these other frightening things around the world, is that they make us sit up and listen. We suddenly start thinking about what is really important. If one of your children or someone close to you becomes sick, the things that we consider important usually change drastically. We ask different questions and probably more important ones. Who do I belong to? What is my life on earth about? Is it just about acquiring as many comforts and material things as possible, or are these things really trivial? When we are faced with possible catastrophies they help us to listen and hear what is important.
Who do I belong to?