In Jesus’s time, there were men and women who were Jewish, living under the Roman government as residents of Galilee, Judea, and surrounding regions. Also living among the Jews were Romans, Samaritans, and Gentiles. Like us they were spouses, parents, children, and siblings who had jobs and responsibilities in the empire.
In today’s gospel, the Pharisees are determined to undermine Jesus by asking if the Jews should pay taxes to Caesar. While they are opposed to paying the tax, the Pharisees quickly produced a coin upon Jesus’ request which seems to imply their use and acceptance of its benefits. Sidestepping a direct answer about lawfulness issue, Jesus instead directs them to “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” He’s saying if you’re going to use Caesar’s coin, then repay him, but more importantly give to God what belongs to God.
Sometimes this gospel story has been used to argue for the separation of religion and politics. But Jesus is saying it’s not that simple. There’s a danger in compartmentalizing our lives, religion from politics and the spiritual from the worldly, because, like Caesar’s imprinted image on the coin, God’s image is imprinted on our hearts. At the core of our being is our creator God. We belong to God and his imprint should inform and influence every part of us, everything that makes us who we are. Before our secondary identities, we are children of God. Before we are spouses, parents, friends, co-workers, citizens, residents, liberal or conservative, we are children of God and as such, we are whole persons called to give back to God by living the gospel values, values that influence how we live, work, play, vote, make decisions, and interact with others and the world around us.