Lectionary Reflection for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

From Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 22:15-22

Jesus requests the coin, minted to pay the tax, to be given to him. He does not possess the coin. He does not carry the coin, quite possibly because the coin carries the image of Caesar. Jesus’s question is meant to remind those who carry the coin of the second commandment: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (Exod. 20:4–5). Jesus’s answer that the things of God are to be given to God and not to the emperor is a reminder to those who produced the coin that the very possession of the coin makes them idolaters. . . . For many, this account of Jesus’s claim that we are to give to the emperor what is the emperor’s and to God what is God’s creates an insoluble problem because they do not see how followers of Jesus can then live in the world as we know it. But to recognize that we have an insoluble problem is to begin to follow Jesus. Jesus’s response to the Pharisees and Herodians does create an insoluble problem, but that is what it is meant to do. You know you have a problem, at least if you are a disciple of Jesus, when you do not have a problem.

©2006 by Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.