God is in Control
How do you know God is in control? Isaiah has the answer for you. God has put a man with a kind and generous heart as king for the Persians. His name is Cyrus. Cyrus instructs the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple. Cyrus was not Jewish and his gods were mainly two, a god of good and a god of evil, not the God of Israel. God used someone of a different faith to help the Jewish people. Why? Because God is in charge. God can even use people we don’t like to do good for us because God can. Perhaps that’s why God tells us to love our neighbor because God has our neighbor doing good things for us.
A little background to our gospel reading today. The Pharisees were one of the religious groups of the Jews of the first century. They resented the Roman control of their country. The Herodians were another group of Jews, but they accepted Roman rule and worked with the Romans to collect taxes. Both groups were very angry at Jesus. The point that these two groups had in common was that they wanted to kill Jesus. They gathered together to make a trap. There was a census tax that the Romans made all people pay. The Pharisees hated the tax because they believed that everything should go to God. The Herodians accepted the tax because they would be the people who would charge the tax, and sometimes they would tax the extra people so they could steal the money.
The trap is as follows: If Jesus says that you must pay the tax, the Pharisees could accuse Jesus of not being the Messiah because he was working for the Romans. If Jesus said not to pay the tax, the Herodians would have Jesus arrested for treason and insurrection. It seemed like the perfect trap.
Jesus defeats his trap. How? He doesn’t really answer their question. Rather, he calls them hypocrites and then says what the real question should be. Whose image is on the coin? You may not realize it, but Jesus has just created a trap for these men. If everything belonged to God, then His teaching was that they should have no Roman currency. But in the gospel, it tells us they have a coin. They have violated their law. Now Jesus says to give Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s. Caesar can have his coins; they are useless to God. Everything still belongs to God. We must give everything to God.
We pay taxes. We vote. We participate in local government. All this is acceptable because we know that in our hearts everything belongs to God. God wants us to be good stewards of what He has given us. And we can use local forms of government to do good. It is our responsibility to do so. But we must do so with the morals and virtues that God has given us for the common good of all. We must not confuse is. Study the topics, compare them with the teachings of the Church. Form your conscience to follow God’s will.
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen