HOMILY THEME: “GIVE TO CAESAR WHAT IS CAESAR’S,
AND TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S”
A little boy wanted Rs. 1000.00 badly and prayed to God for a whole week, but nothing happened. So, he decided to write a letter to God requesting Rs.1000.00. When the Post Office got the letter addressed to God they forwarded it on to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was very impressed, touched and amused so he instructed his office to send the boy the required money. The office thought Rs. 100.00 would be a lot to the little boy. The boy was, indeed, delighted by the money. He sat down and wrote a thank you note immediately, which read: Dear God, thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it through some politiciansand, as usual, they kept most of it.
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21). For some politicians and rulers this verse ranks among the most popular verses in the Bible.
Should we pay Income Tax, Municipality Tax, GST, Valued Added Tax, etc.? Avoiding paying ‘the tax’ is an all too common practice today. The Bible speaks with clarity on what our duty is in this regard.
People have questioned the paying of taxes throughout history. Jesus was confronted with this same question by his fellow Jews whose country was occupied by the Romans. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
Jesus paid taxes to the Roman government, though it was corrupt, and his teaching for all his disciples is that we too must pay our lawful taxes.
Here in Assam, we get many benefits from our taxes. These benefits are not always appreciated. We often take these benefits for granted: an ambulance service, a fire brigade service, Municipal water supply, public roads, street lighting, police protection and many welfare benefits are available only because of the taxes that people pay.
What should we give to Caesar (our authorities)? We owe them our respect for the position they hold, even though their personal lives may disappoint us. We owe them our obedience to their laws when there is no conflict with God’s higher laws (Romans 13:7; Acts 5:29).
We owe them our taxes, even when it is hard to make ends meet. Evading the payment of taxes is a form of stealing, and no thief will enter God’s heavenly kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10).
Payment of taxes to our government is only one side of our duty, however. Jesus reminds us we owe something to God as well. What do we owe the King of the universe? We owe Him a portion of our week, one day in seven, to rest and to worship Him (Exodus 20:9-11).
We owe Him a portion of our income, a minimum of one dollar of every ten (Malachi 3:8-10). He is the Owner; we are mere stewards. We owe Him our loving obedience. Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30).
God has done so much for us. He has given us so much. Are we giving Him what He deserves? The fact that He does not send you a yearly notice of taxes due for services rendered does not mean your account is up-to-date. One day we must each appear personally before the Judge of the universe to review our accounts.
The movie A Man for All Seasons is based on the life of St. Thomas More. Thomas More was a talented and versatile writer of the sixteenth century. He was a lawyer, a judge, and in 1529, King Henry VIII honoured him by appointing him Chancellor of England. Then tragedy struck Thomas More’s life. Here’s how it happened.
Henry VIII divorced his queen and remarried unlawfully. To combat opposition to his marriage, Henry ordered certain dignitaries of the state to sign a document, swearing under oath that his remarriage was lawful. Henry passed word along to the dignitaries that if they refused to sign the document, they would be arrested for treason.
A dramatic scene occured when Lord Norfolk brought the document to Thomas More. Thomas refused to sign it; no amount of persuasion would change his mind. Finally Lord Norfolk lost his patience. He said to Thomas More: “Oh confound all this… I don’t know whether the marriage was lawful or not. But, damn it, Thomas, look at these names… You know these men! Can’t you do what I did and come along with us, for fellowship?”
Thomas More still refused. He wouldn’t swear to do something that he knew in his heart was wrong. On being told that, if he signed it, he would get the favour of the King, Sir Thomas More replied, ‘I am the King’s good servant, but God’s first.’ Thomas More was eventually arrested. On July 6, 1535, he was executed for treason.
In the second place, there is something intrinsically seductive about money. The more we have, the harder it is for us to give. Jesus said, “you cannot worship both God and money…” Money is like a drug. It enslaves as surely as cocaine. That’s why Jesus devoted more of his teachings to warning about the perils of great wealth than to any other subject. He was not saying that it is bad to own things, but he was warning us to be careful lest we get to a point where the things own us! The worship of money is probably the most widely practiced religion in our country today. Even prominent religious leaders have fallen down and worshipped this every popular idol called money.
There was a lesson learned by John D. Rockefeller whodrove himself hard to be a success. He became a millionaire at the age of twenty-three and at the age of fifty was the richest man on earth. Then at fifty-three years of age, Rockefeller developed a serious illness which caused the hair on his head, his eyebrows, and eyelashes to drop off. Even though he was the world’s only billionaire and could have almost anything on earth he wanted, he could only digest milk and crackers. He became shrunken like a mummy. He could not sleep, would not smile, and nothing in life meant much to him at all. Doctors predicted that within a year he would be dead.
One night, however, as Rockefeller struggled to fall asleep,he came to grips with his life. He realized that he could take nothing with him into the next world. The next day he embarked on a new way of living. Rather than hoarding his money and possessions, he began to give them away to persons in need. Establishing the Rockefeller Foundation, he channeled his fortune into hospitals, research, and mission work. His contributions eventually led to the discovery of penicillin as well as cures for malaria, tuberculosis, and diphtheria.
At age 53, Rockefeller was given a year to live. By learning to live by the principle of giving rather than getting, he altered his life so dramatically that he eventually lived to the ripe old age of ninety-eight.
For many people the worship of money and possessions is a profound and deadly spiritual problem. The more we have, the less we seem able to give. The more things we own, the greater the temptation to allow things to own us.
Remember the movie, “Oh God!” with George Burns? In that movie the idea was mentioned that the reason God gave Adam and Eve no clothes to wear was because God knew that once they had clothes, they would want pockets. Once they had pockets, they would want money.
The Scriptures do not say that money is the root of all evil. And it isn’t. It is the love of money that is the root of all evil. It is the worship of money that puts us into competition with God.
The first thing we need to realize is that everything we have, everything we are, and everything we hope to be is first and foremost a gift from God. When we understand the magnitude of this reality, our hearts become captivated by the love and grace that God has lavished upon us. We then soon discover our bodies, our minds, and most importantly of all, our hearts truly belong to God. It’s when God takes possession of our hearts and sends the spirit to live there that we find it not only easier to render to God the things that are God’s, but it becomes a great privilege and joy to do so.
When we say to someone, “I love you with all my heart,” what do we mean? We are saying, “I am committed to you. All that I have is yours. I trust you enough that I am willing to share with you everything I have, everything I am, and everything I hope to be.” That kind of commitment is what God asks of us. Truly it’s all God’s in the first place. Render to God the things that are God’s.