In the gospel this Sunday the Pharisees try to trap Jesus by asking him whether it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. They think that if Jesus says “Yes”, it will alienate the people from him, if he says “No”, it will get him in trouble with theRoman authorities and he will be arrested.
Jesus tells them, in the translation so many of us remember well, to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s”.
Although the issue of Roman domination is one that exerted many people, especially the Pharisees, at the time it is not so important to Jesus because the real issue for him is that the people whom he was addressing were dominated anyway, either by fear or, in the case of the better off, the desire for status and the maintenance of the status quo. These things impaired their awareness of God’s goodness. We, too, need to listen to the voice of God if we really want to be healed from what afflicts us. Of course, what belongs to Caesar is not on the same level as that which belongs to God. All the more, therefore, when it comes to the “lesser” things of life, like paying taxes, we need to practice what is right and not let resentment cloud our judgment.
It is so easy for us to get indignant at what is not really that important. We can imagine the we are unhappy because of something, or the actions of someone, outside ourselves. Although it is often right to try and do something about changing our circumstances if we can, our reaction to oppression or pain can tell us something important about ourselves. Often, we cannot change the things that make us angry or hurt us, but we can change things about ourselves, with the help of God, which prevent us being the loving people we were created by him to be.