This week’s Gospel reading presented one of my favorite moments in the New Testament because this is one of my favorite scenes reenacted in the famous musical “Godspell.” It’s the story where Jesus replies to the Herodians and the Pharisees as they try to trick Jesus and make him stumble over his words asking “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” They awaited Jesus's response in anticipation for what he would say. Jesus couldn’t say “No.” because he would be accused of being treacherous to Rome. Meanwhile, if he simply said “Yes” then he would cease to be popular among the massive Jewish community, meaning he would lose many followers. Jesus knew their ill intentions from the get-go and simply replied “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” and demanded that they give him one of their coins. He then asked for the name of the man whose face was on the coin they gave him. These men were bewildered because this was a rather obvious question. So they answered, “It’s Caesar’s.” It was then where Jesus flips the question on its head answering them plainly “Give Caesar what you owe to Caesar, but give God what you owe God.”
The final response Jesus gave to those men was brilliant because it gave them an answer that was somehow both unsatisfying and satisfying without ever answering the initial question they asked. It actually poses a brand new one: What do we owe God? I will tell you now that it sure isn't Jesus's head on a coin. Jesus responds to the men in manner that is quite frank, but it has a much bigger answer than we immediately go to. His real answer is that “This kingdom and the kingdom of Heaven are different kingdoms, and one of them won’t even matter in the end.” As we have heard in most of the New Testament, Jesus walks around Jerusalem going up to everyone saying that the kingdom of God is at hand. This kingdom here on Earth is not all there is. Jesus in one sentence says that there is something beyond what you see all around you, beyond paying taxes, and even beyond Caesar. God has endless dominion over all. He may have given dominion to men and women to rule the Earth, but God rules the kingdom of Heaven. While you pay homage to Caesar by throwing your coins into his pockets, God asks that you give him your whole heart, your whole mind, and your whole soul. As you remain loyal to God, he will provide you with all that you need and then some. We don’t give God money or gold, or statues to “appease him.” We give our lives over to God so we can love him and offer him our full attention. God gave up his only son so that he then would give his own life to save us. This Gospel reading reminds me that simply trusting God is way more valuable than money or any other material values you can think of.