The gospel reading this week is again well known, and it seems pretty straight forward. Some of the Jerusalem leadership – Pharisees and Herodian’s, are trying to trick Jesus with a question about Roman taxes. They are either hoping he will say yes, and lose the support of the masses who are impoverished by the Roman taxes; or no, which would be treasonous and lead to Rome dealing with him. Either way he will be silenced, and the Jesus problem resolved. Instead Jesus seems to play the Anglican card and takes the middle way – pay to Caesar what is Caesars, and to God what is God’s.
It all seems straight forward. Except it isn’t. For Romans’ Caesar was god (the coins carried an image of Caesar’s head with the title “son of God” making them idolatrous to Jews) and all things were deemed to belong to that god Caesar. For Jews the opposite was true – all things belong to God, nothing to Caesar. What was Jesus saying – well not the separation of church and state that we keep hearing. But what he was saying depended on where you stood.
So what is he saying to us? Everything belongs to God. ALL people, ALL creation, and ALL things. And we are to treat all as gifts. That is what the kingdom of Heaven is, and what the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount are all about.
It could be said that this is what the way of Saint Francis and Saint Clare are all about. We read this in the rule of the Franciscan Third Order which says, “Our chief object is to reflect that openness to all which was characteristic of Jesus. This can only be achieved in a spirit of chastity, which sees others as belonging to God and not as a means of self-fulfilment.” That is a big ask.
It turns out Jesus’ answer carried more of a punch than we might have thought.
You can listen to Bonnie's thoughts on this here