Friday, October 17, 2014

God's poor

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
October 19, 2014

Matthew 22:15-21

Behind Jesus' back, the Pharisees come to an agreement to prepare a critical trap for him. They don't come to meet him themselves. They send some disciples accompanied by some supporters of Herod Antipas. Perhaps there were a few powerful tax collectors for Rome among the latter.

The trap was well thought out: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" . If he answers negatively, they will be able to accuse him of rebellion against Rome. If he legitimizes the payment of tributes, he will be discredited among those poor peasants who are oppressed by the taxes and whom he loves and defends with all his strength.

Jesus' answer has been succinctly summarized over the centuries in these terms: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's." Few of Jesus' words have been quoted as much as these. And none, perhaps, have been more distorted and manipulated based on interests very alien to the Prophet, defender of the poor.

Jesus isn't thinking of God and Caesar in Rome as two powers that can each demand, in their own arena, their rights from their subjects. Like any faithful Jew, Jesus knows that to God "belongs the earth and all it holds, the world and all who dwell in it." (Psalm 24) What can belong to Caesar that doesn't belong to God? Are not the emperor's subjects sons and daughters of God?

Jesus doesn't dwell on the different stances facing Herodians, Sadduccees and Pharisees in that society regarding tribute to Rome and its significance -- if they carry the "tax money" in their pockets, let them fulfill their obligations. But he isn't at the service of the Roman Empire, rather, he is making way for the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

So he reminds them of something no one has asked him: "Render unto God what is God's." That is, do not give to any "Caesar" what only belongs to God -- the lives of His sons and daughters. As he has told his followers so many times, the poor belong to God, the little ones are His favorites, the Kingdom of God belongs to them. No one is to abuse them.

One must not sacrifice people's lives, dignity, or happiness to any power. And, certainly, no power today has sacrificed more lives or caused more suffering, hunger and destruction than this "dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal" that the powerful of the Earth have managed to impose, according to Pope Francis. We can't remain passive and indifferent, silencing the voice of our conscience in religious practice.

No comments:

Post a Comment