9th Week in Ord. Time, Tuesday – 2nd June 2020 — Gospel: Mk 12,13-17
Greater responsibility versus Limited duty
Reading the mind of his opponents and seeing their hypocrisy, Jesus uses the opportunity to teach them a universal truth. He acts very practical: requests a coin, holds the coin, inquires about coin’s image and inscription, and makes the inquisitors respond. In the context of these actions, Jesus’ response is amazing because he has slipped out of their trap. Jesus not only tells his listeners to “give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,” he also demands that they “give to God the things that are God’s” (12,17). The denarius belongs to the emperor because of his image; in the same way, we owe to God our lives as we are made in His image. Conversely Jesus’ response severely limits what is owed to Caesar. The detestable coin with its idolatrous inscription is the sum total of ‘the things that are Caesar’s’. So what is given back to Caesar is strictly constrained. However, what is owed to God is limitless and beyond boundaries. In harmony with Paul’s teaching in Rom 13,1-7, Jesus affirms, in principle, the basic legitimacy of human government. But he insists that one’s obligation to God is always greater that it severely limits what is owed to the state. Jesus’ response resolves the conflicts that inevitably arise between one’s duty to the state (moral obligation) and one’s responsibilities to God (accountable). But Jesus’ wise teaching establishes a universalistic norm and continued relevance for those living as members of the kingdom of God in the political domain of the state.