The Archbishop of Canterbury reads my blog!
Or maybe, he and my dad are one and the same person.
What has led me to this stunning revelation? They have both made the same illustration from the story of Jesus paying taxes to Caesar – dad on this blog a few weeks ago, and the ABofC during the Service for the New Parliament held in St Margaret’s Church, Westminster on Tuesday. Coincidence?
The story (from Matthew 22) is that the Pharisees, in another cunning plan to trip Jesus up and expose him as a dangerous revolutionary, send a posse to him to ask whether it is lawful for Jews to pay taxes to Caesar.
Jesus asks someone to show him the coins with which taxes are paid. I like to picture him feigning short-sightedness at this point, squinting at the coin, then holding it out to one of the questioners as he asks ‘Whose image is on the coin?’
‘Caesar’s,’ comes the reply.
‘The give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,’ he tells them.
The point both Dad and Rowan Williams made was that the way to tell what belongs to Caesar is to look at the image marked on it. So how can we tell what is God’s? Look for His image. Where does the Bible teach that His image is found? Stamped on every man, woman and child (Gen 1:26-27).
The ABofC used this as a launching point to talk about human dignity (an edited transcript of his talk appears here, sadly without the Caesar reference, so you’ll just have to trust me on that!), encouraging politicians to work towards a society which acknowledges the inherent dignity and worth of beings marked with the image of God.
Valid though that is, it doesn’t directly address the command of Jesus: Give to God what is God’s.
Now I haven’t got a purse full of image-bearers to give to God; the only one over which I have any say is me. Am I giving myself to God? Am I ‘spending’ myself in His service?
Of course, not all the coins in Israelite purses went to Caesar in taxes, but all of them contributed to the running of his empire in some way – by buying food, paying wages, building homes, subsidising entertainment or even just sitting safely in a bank.
We’re not all called to enter monasteries/convents and devote our lives to silent prayer and contemplation. Most of us are mandated to be out in the world, buying and selling, interacting with people, making things, doing things, or relaxing and recharging our batteries.
Our lives will be transformed and transformative if we live them with an acknowledgement that we are God’s, first and foremost. His mark is stamped upon us, and we represent him wherever we go and whatever we do.