Proper 24(A): Show Me the Coin
By: The Rev. Oscar A. Rozo
It is clear they are setting up Jesus. If Jesus states that taxes are lawful, he would lose the attention of the poor and the crowd who have been oppressed by the Roman’s tax system. However, if Jesus speaks against the Roman taxes, the Pharisees would have Jesus’ head served on a platter. Aware of their malice, Jesus replied to them: “Show me the coin used for the tax.”
All of us, or at least a great majority of us, pay taxes and pay our dues to our government. However, I always wonder about what belongs to God. Are we aware and do we understand what we should give back to God?
According to the book of Genesis, God is the creator and master of all. The first paragraph of the first book of the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (New International Version). Such depiction is mirrored in the first few prayers that are found in the Eucharistic Prayer C of the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer: “At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home… From the primal elements you brought forth the human race…” (BCP, p. 370)
In my tradition (the Episcopal Church), we proclaim that we are a sacramental church. By “sacramental,” we mean that we observe the sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist as well as the sacramental rites: Confirmation, Ordination, Holy Matrimony, Reconciliation of a Penitent, and Unction. These practices remind us that life in itself is sacred, divine, and holy. Life comes from God and therefore life is sacred.
As I have written in previous essays for Modern Metanoia, my wife, the Rev. Elizabeth Tester, and I just gave birth to our first son, Ezekiel (Zeke). Early on during the pregnancy, Zeke was diagnosed with Spina Bifida (SB), a birth defect in the baby’s spinal cord. As we were told about Zeke’s diagnosis, I was deeply saddened. I felt lost and disappointed. I could not comprehend how a sacred life could be born with SB. I paid my dues to “Caesar,” I paid my dues to God, and yet Zeke was going to be born with SB.
Hours after his birth, while standing in the NICU a nurse asked me if I wanted to hold Zeke. Unsure how to hold him without hurting him and causing him discomfort, I put my arms around him and took a good look at his big blue eyes. For a second I remember Victor Hugo’s line from his famous novel Les Misérables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Regardless of my disappointments and frustrations with his diagnosis, as I embraced him I realized how much I loved him and I realized he was perfect, he was sacred, and he was my Zeke.
As this realization set in, I remembered another line from Genesis: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). At that moment, I realized that Zeke, Elizabeth, and I belong to God.
We are to pay to Caesar what is due Caesar, for the image printed in the coin is Caesar’s, but we also are to give to God what is due God. In the face of every individual we encounter in this world, we encounter the image of God. In the same way that we are to pay our taxes to Caesar, we are also to pay God by loving our neighbor, by respecting each other, and by forgiving and asking for forgiveness. Give to Caesar what is due Caesar, and give to God what is due God. Zeke is now 5 months old and he is a constant reminder of God’s love for us.
The Rev. Oscar A. Rozo is an Episcopal priest serving at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin (Diocese of Milwaukee). Oscar is originally from Bogota, Colombia and moved to the U.S. in 2004. He now lives in Wisconsin with his wife, The Rev. Elizabeth Tester, their 5 month old son Ezekiel (Zeke), their puppy Amos, and kitty Batsheva.