By Fr. Andrew Kelly
During Jesus’ time the civic coin had the emperor’s image and inscription of divinity: “Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest.” The dilemma is: Whose “coin” reigns in the realm?
This is Sunday’s Gospel environment (Matthew 22:15-21). The political and religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus. But Jesus’ insight about politics and faith still stirs and disturbs Christian souls to this day: “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
The question is allegiance. Whose image drives Christian individuals and Christian churches? That is why Jesus asked for the coin. The image on the coin was the emperor. Just because the emperor’s image is on the coin, does that mean the emperor’s desires and interests control every moving moment of human beings?
The image of God is stamped upon every human being. The image of the emperor is stamped only upon a coin. The coin is important for life, but does the emperor trump the image stamped upon every human soul?
In light of whose image is stamped where, Jesus simply clarifies the priorities of allegiance: “…and to God the things that are God’s.”
(Father Andrew Kelly is pastor of St. Mary Parish in Mechanicsville.)