"The Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus a question in order to trap him: 'Teacher, is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?'" - Mark 12:14
Obviously, the answer was, "No way!" What could be more objectionable to the children of Israel than paying for their oppression by a brutal foreign overlord with pretentions to divinity? Saying that in public would be treason. Condoning Caesar's tax would be blasphemy. Clever trap.
So Jesus asked them for a coin (significant they had one of those idolatrous, God-mocking coins and Jesus did not). The coin clearly belonged to Caesar since it bore Caesar's name and image. "Give to Caesar what belongs to him," Jesus said, "and give to God what belongs to God."
What, then, belongs to God? That which bears God's image and name. That's us, of course! We are God's "coins," God's currency in the world. In addition to being a political statement against Rome, it was a statement of empowerment for the Jewish people. In effect, Jesus said, "No one owns you, but God."
And who doesn't need to hear that in a world awash in brands (I'm wearing half a dozen right now) and graven images vying for a piece of us, if not full ownership? Reciting "I belong to God" as our daily mantra might be as important in our time as in the days of Jesus. Idolatry never goes out of style.
Lord, I give myself to you. May my day and my life be well-spent. Amen.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first book, The Spinner Prince, will be available March 9, 2018.