Gospel Reflections (Matthew 22:15-21)

They must really have thought they had their victim sewn up! If Jesus said he paid the Roman taxes, he recognised the Emperor, not God, as his Lord. If he said he didn’t pay, he was a traitor to Rome. Jesus turns the question back on them. First he makes them admit that they themselves recognise Rome as overlord by carrying a Roman coin, for the coin would carry the Emperor’s head. Next he puts them a question: what do they consider is due to Caesar? Finally he goes beyond their question, to interrogate their ultimate loyalty: in the last analysis, just what is due to God? At a superficial level this seems a little verbal tussle, in which Jesus outwits his opponents. But the story was remembered and passed on in the Christian community not because of Jesus’ cleverness, but because at a deeper level it is a question which Jesus puts to each of us: just where do our loyalties and priorities lie? Money? Respect? Sex? Fame? A good holiday? Comfort? Power? Jesus is not a dictator who imposes his will. He just asks the question and leaves us to give our own answer. To those who question him he gives no easy response, but always replies with another question. What takes priority in my life? Does God get a look-in? In what way?

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