After church on Sunday morning, Little Johnny suddenly announced to his mother, “Mom, I’ve decided I’m going to be a minister when I grow up.” “That’s okay with us,” his mother said, “But what made you decide to be a minister?” “Well,” Little Johnny replied, “I’ll have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell at folks than it will be to sit still and listen.”
When we were kids, we all had some image of what we wanted to be when we grew up. The Apostle Paul writes, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.” As children and even as adults we have dreams and aspirations of who we want to be, but Paul adds, “When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” That does not mean that we set aside that childlike faith that Scripture speaks of, but it does mean we grow in our understanding of who God is, so that His image may increase in us.
In our Gospel reading today the Pharisees had come to Jesus questioning as to whether or not a person should pay taxes. They wanted to trick him by either getting him into trouble with the people or the Romans. Jesus didn’t fall for it. Instead, he asked to see one of the coins that was in use at the time that was minted with the image of the Emperor stamped on it. Why? Because it was ultimately the Emperor’s coin. His image stamped on the coin was a claim to his ownership. Therefore, when questioned on whether or not to pay taxes, Jesus says, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” It’s Caesar’s coin, so give it to him, but also give to God what is God’s.
It’s one of those parables that can speak to us on many levels. It speaks to us about our relationship to the government, taxes, and even of stewardship, but it also speaks to us about those images we hold of ourselves. That coin had Caesar’s image on it. It represents him and so it represents the world. There are aspects of our lives – of our image – that are representative of the world. We live in it; therefore, we have to live and work with it. Because of this reality, there is really no escaping giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, but in doing so, we do not want to exchange our Godly image for a worldly one. As Paul teaches to the Romans, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” into the image of Christ Jesus.
St. Bonaventure declares, “In all your deeds and words you should look upon this Jesus as your model. Do so whether you are walking or keeping silence, or speaking, whether you are alone or with others. He is perfect, and thus you will be not only irreprehensible, but praiseworthy.” You were created in the image of God; therefore, give to God what is His and you will be praiseworthy.
When God created you He stamped you with his image, so just as the coin that bears the image of the Emperor belongs to Emperor, you who bear the image of God belong to God, not in the sense a slave belongs to a master, but as a child belongs to a loving Father.
Yes, give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, but give to God what is God’s. Bear His image in your life.