:: Thursday, December 02, 2004 ::
Render Unto Caesar
Yesterday's Daily Office passage was Luke 20:19 - 26, the "Render unto Caesar" passage.
Here it is, from the NRSV:
19When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.
20 So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. 21So they asked him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ 23But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, 24‘Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?’ They said, ‘The emperor’s.’ 25He said to them, ‘Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ 26And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.
All the sermons with the conclusion, "this means you should pay your taxes and your tithe" notwithstanding, I remembered a different angle on this passage presented once by a source I do not remember, reinforced by a careful study of the original [Greek] text.
Jesus asks them, "whose image is on the denarius, and whose inscription?" And they tell him, "Caesar's." In other words, "whose coin is this?"
Jesus' reply, "render unto..." confounds his hearers, but does not really answer the question of taxation in a way that they appreciate. Coins with Caesar's image on them were, in a sense, owned by Caesar.
The implied parallel is significant: the term "eikon," "image, icon" is the same word used in the creation of human beings in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint. Humans were made "in the image of God." Thus, God's image is on all of us.
By extension, we are all, like it or not, owned by God. Jesus then says, "give to God what is God's." Give Caesar what is rightfully his, but give yourselves (completely) to God.
And they were amazed at his teaching.
:: Matt 12/02/2004 01:28:00 PM :: permalink ::