TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S
The trap they set for Jesus is well thought out: «Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?». If he answers positively, they can accuse him of rebellion against Rome. If he accepts the tribute, he will end up discredited before those people who live exploited by taxes, people he so loves and defends.
Jesus asks them to show him «the coin of the tax». He doesn’t have one, since he lives as a wandering itinerant, without land or fixed work; he doesn’t have problems with tax-collectors. Later he asks them what image appears on that silver denarius. It represents Tiberius, and the inscription says: «Tiberius Caesar, Divi Augusti Filius Augustus». On the other side one could read: «Pontifex Maximus».
Jesus’ gesture is now clear. His opponents live enslaved by the system, since by using that coin struck with political and religious symbols, they are recognizing the sovereignty of the emperor. That’s not the case with Jesus, who lives poor but free, dedicated to those who are most poor and excluded from the Empire.
Jesus then adds something that no one had asked him about. They ask about the rights of Caesar and he answers them remembering the rights of God: «Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and God what belongs to God». The coin carries the emperor’s image, but the human being, as the old book of Genesis remembers, is «God’s image». That’s why he never should be subject to any emperor. Jesus has remembered it many times. The poor are God’s; the little ones are God’s favorite children; God’s reign belongs to them. No one should abuse them.
Jesus doesn’t say that a half of life, what’s material and economic, belongs to Caesar’s sphere and the other half, what’s spiritual and religious, is God’s sphere. His message is different: if we enter into the reign, we mustn’t allow any Caesar to sacrifice what only belongs to God: the world’s hungry, the abandoned sub-Saharans that arrive in boats, people «without papers» from other cities. May no Caesar count on us.