Benjamin Franklin once wrote to the French ambassador, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
Long before Franklin, Jesus spoke about the certainty of death. And today we hear him speak of the certainty of taxes.
Once again, the Pharisees are out to trap Jesus.
If Jesus answers their question one way, he will anger those loyal to Rome. If he answers another way, he will anger his own people and they will have reason to suspect his ministry.
But Jesus knows what to do. As with so many questions in life, it is not a matter of “either-or” but rather “both-and.”
He answers the question, but in a way in which his opponents cannot win – but God does!
Jesus’ answer is both practical and spiritual. Give the emperor what belongs to him. The coins that bear his image in a way belong to him.
The government back then, as it still does today, issues and distributes money, and expects its share back.
But once, as good citizens, we pay our taxes, and even before that, we give to God what is God’s.
And what belongs to God? EVERYTHING!!
All that we have, all that we are, and all that we ever hope to be belongs to the Creator of all things.
The coin for the census tax was stamped with the emperor’s image.
You and I, created in the image and likeness of God, are stamped with GOD’S IMAGE.
At baptism, we are marked with the sign of the cross, the sign of our redemption, the sign of our salvation.
Whenever we pray, we make the sign of the cross.
At the Eucharist, when we present our gifts of bread and wine, we also present the gift of ourselves, so just as bread and wine are made holy and become the body and blood of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, we too are transformed more and more into the image of the one who created us.
We are the payment to God for God’s great gifts of life and love. Each moment of every day, our every word and every action, are to be given to our Creator.
We “pay our tax”, we give ourselves to Jesus, so that through our witness to the Gospel you and I can bring Jesus to the world.
Jesus is not asking us to be perfect – far from it. But he reminds us, today and always, that we are beautifully, wonderful made in the image of a God who asks us to give our all to him because in Jesus God gave his all to us.
In Ben Franklin’s words, death and taxes are certain.
But today, Jesus reminds us that so are life and all the good gifts that God has given and continues to give us today and every day.
And for this we give thanks.
Let me end on a bit of a practical note.
Christians are dual citizens - of the Kingdom of God and the nation in which we live.
Part of our religious duties oblige us to perform responsibly our civic duties.
One of the most important of those duties is that of voting for those in public office.
In less than two weeks we will go to the polls to elect the next president of the United States.
The political atmosphere has unfortunately become very contentious and divisive.
No matter what your political preference, it is important that on November 3rd we exercise our right to vote. I will as I hope you will too.