Throughout history, Christians have been baffled by the relationship between their faith and their life context, between faith and reason, between loyalty to the state and fidelity to the church. Today’s gospel (Mt 22) revisits what is now a very relevant topic for reflection. In the gospel, the Lord Jesus, replying to the disciples of the Pharisees, says: Give to Cesar what belongs to Cesar, and to God what belongs to God!

Cesar or the emperor represents the earthly power that governed Israel at that time. The Lord clearly tells the people that they must positively contribute to society by becoming good citizens. If it means paying taxes, which are just and needed for the welfare of all, then by all means, give it to Cesar. In that way, followers of Christ will be known as supporters of whatever is good that is found in human and social relationships. From the time of the apostles to our time, Christian faith encouraged believers to be salt of the earth and light of the world, living on this earth as flavor and ferment.

But the Lord’s words do not end with the advice to cooperate with the good intentions of civil and temporal power. He also says that we must give to God what belongs to God. And to what has God claim over us? The answer is – everything! All that we have and all that we are are gifts we received from the Lord and therefore, we must render thanks and offering by willingly giving back to him all! While Cesar represents the legitimate power to which we must give cooperation for the good of society, God signifies the sovereign power to whom every knee must bend, in heaven and on earth (Ph 2:10), even Cesar himself.

Today we hear politicians, commentators, and even purveyors of fake news all talk about separation of church and state. This gives rise to the claim that people of faith should not interfere in the decisions and actions of the people in temporal power; that religious and moral views have nothing to do with state actions; that the vision of God must not enter the arena of politics. But this is a “fake” distinction. The earthly and the heavenly are not opposed. In fact, when this question was asked of Jesus, it was not intended as a serious quest for truth. Instead, it as a trap. The Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus by making him commit a mistake in judgment. But they failed miserably.

So give to Cesar what belongs to him. Give to God, well, everything!