So, have you ever been in a conversation with somebody and you knew that you were going to end up being the butt of a joke. I mean, you just felt in your gut that everybody around you was clued into what was about to happen and you were the new person. This is the worst. I know haters are just gonna hate, but it still stinks. It is a total drag to be included only for the purpose of public ridicule and exclusion. I am talking about being socially bullied. Trust me, I have been there. This basically describes my entire middle school experience.
I couldn’t help but recall these types of memories when I was reflecting on this weekend’s gospel. Christ is literally surrounded by folks who really don’t like him. Their goal is to socially embarrass him. They are bullies, plain and simple. The Pharisees corner Jesus and ask him, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” This statement appears harmless on the surface. Deep down, however, the bullies know that any answer will condemn Jesus. A “yes” means he is not a good Jew because the Jews really didn’t like the Romans and a “no” means he is a social rebel and should be dealt with. So, what do ya do? Jesus ends up absolutely owning the bullies! I love this.
You see, the coin was a Denarius Tiberius. It was the charity penny of the time. The inscription on the coin calls Tiberius Caesar the divine son of Augustus Caesar. Divine! This would be detestable to a Jew. The coin (and most coins of the time for that matter) portrayed men as gods. Christ looks at the coin and says, “…repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Let me ask you this…what do you think Christ wants us to give to false gods? The answer is NOTHING. That’s right! Jesus is saying in an awesome way, “You can give to this false god of a man what you think he deserves but I am going to stand strong right here in front of you completely fearless and let you know that God wants all of you.” I know that is not the actual scripture, but you get what I mean. How cool is that?!?
Christ wants us to give him everything. No bully and no false prophet can take anything away from us. This weeks Gospel is not just about being fearless in front of those who try to tear us down. It is about trusting wholeheartedly in what our king expects from us and surrendering to the simplicity of his invitation. Give him your heart first. Then, the kingdom begins to unfold and giving to the needs of others becomes the mission.