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Paying taxes to the emperor

Gospel Reading: Mk 12:13-17
Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?

Should we pay or should we not pay?” Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” They brought one to him and he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They replied to him, “Caesar’s.” So Jesus said to them, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” They were utterly amazed at him.

The Jews in Jesus’ time pay to the Roman officials a census tax of one denarius (equivalent to the daily wage). The coins they use bear the image of Emperor Tiberius, “son of the divine Augustus.” We now find Jesus in Jerusalem under the direct rule of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate. The Pharisees, who usually are anti-Romans and have no love for the Herodian rulers, join forces with the Herodians to trap Jesus with a politically loaded question.

On the lawfulness of the census tax, Jesus declares, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (v 17). While recognizing the legitimacy of civil authority (Roman or Herodian), he sets it in its proper place: it covers only one part of life. God, on the other hand, covers the whole of life. One’s duty towards God and that towards civil authority, although distinct, are not completely separate, but are united and governed by the principle of accomplishing the will of God in all things.

In our time, the principle of “separation of Church and State” is often referred to but is used to suit one’s interest. Our devotion to God does not detract us from our civil responsibilities. On the other hand, secular authorities should not curtail freedom of conscience, the choice of the person to exercise his or her faith in a manner fit.

How does your faith inspire you to be a responsible citizen of the country?

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SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2016,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.