by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Matthew 22: 15-21
The question that some Pharisees, who were in cahoots with Antipas' supporters, pose to Jesus is a cunningly prepared trap to set up an environment conducive to killing Him: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
If He says it's lawful, Jesus will be discredited before the people and lose His support, thus it will be easier to act against Him. If He says it's unlawful, He can be accused of being a subversive agitator against the Romans who, during the Passover feast which is coming soon, will go up to Jerusalem to quash any attempt at rebellion against Caesar.
First of all, Jesus asks them to show Him "the coin that pays the tax" and tell Him whose image and inscription is on it. The adversaries acknowledge that the image is Caesar's, as the inscription reads -- Tiberius Caesar, august Son of the Divine Augustus. Highest Pontiff. With His action, Jesus has put the question in an unexpected context.
So He draws an initial conclusion. If the image on the coin is Caesar's, "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's". Give back to him what is his -- that idolatrous coin, stamped with symbols of religious power. If you're using it in your business dealings, you're already acknowledging his sovereignty. Fulfill your obligations.
But Jesus, who doesn't live at the service of the Roman emperor but "seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness", adds a serious warning about something that nobody asked Him: "Render unto God what is God's." The coin carries the "image" of Tiberius but human beings are in the "image" of God -- they belong only to Him. Don't sacrifice people to any power. Defend them.
The conomic crisis that we are experiencing in the Western countries has no easy solution. More than a financial crisis, it's a humanitarian crisis. Obsessed as we are with greater and greater material well-being, we have ended up living a lifestyle that is unsustainable, even economically.
It won't be enough to propose technical solutions. A conversion in our lifestyle, a change of consciousness, is required -- going from the logic of competition to that of cooperation, setting limits on the voracity of the market, learning a new ethic of renunciation.
The crisis is going to be a long one. Tough years await us. We followers of Jesus must find inspiration and encouragement in the Gospel to live through it in solidarity. From Jesus we hear the invitation to be near to the most vulnerable victims -- those who are being unjustly sacrificed to the strategies of the most powerful markets.