At some time every older sibling has pulled this on a little brother or sister who had a nickel they wanted.
"Okay," older child offers, "let's flip for it. Heads I win, tails you lose."
The little kids agree: "Sure!" Then when heads appears the older proclaims "Heads, I win!" Of course if tails comes up the declaration is "Tails, you lose."
At this point it suddenly dawns on the younger child that this is truly a no-win situation. Whatever way the coin lands it's going to land in their sibling's pocket.
In this week's gospel text the Pharisees think they've concocted the perfect no-win question to present before Jesus: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" If Jesus says yes, he'll alienate all those who continued to struggle against Roman rule and who ardently believed Israel must only be obedient to God and God's Torah. If, however, Jesus answers no, then he's immediately at odds with the entire Roman Empire and has identified himself as a dangerous, seditious opponent. Rome would deal swiftly with such a threat.
In the Gospel, Jesus escapes from the trap in the question, “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” by stating, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” By this answer, Jesus reminds his questioners that if they are so concerned and careful about paying taxes to the state, they should be much more concerned and careful about their service to God and their obligations to Him as their Creator and Lord.
By birth we become the citizens of the country of our birth, and by Baptism we become the citizens of heaven. In every age, Christians are faced with balancing the demands of Caesar with the commands of God. Jesus’ answer forms the guiding principle in solving the problems that arise from our dual citizenship, belonging to God and to our country. As Christians, we are to obey the government, even when it is pagan and non-Christian. A loyal Christian is always a loyal citizen. Failure in good citizenship is also failure in Christian duty. We fulfill our duties to our country by loyally obeying the just laws of the State, by paying all lawful taxes, and by contributing our share, whenever called on, toward the common good. Both St. Peter (1 Pt 2:13-14), and St. Paul (Rom 13:1-7), stressed the obligation of the early Christians to be an example to all in their loyalty as citizens of the state. As the famous martyr St. Thomas More said of himself: "I die the King's good servant, but God's first." Cooperation with secular authority cannot interfere with our primary duty of "giving back to God" our whole selves, in whose image - like the stamp on the coin - we are made. Consequently, we give taxes to the government but we give ourselves to God. A faithful Christian is a loyal citizen.
A young lady was soaking up the sun's rays on a Florida beach when a little boy in his swimming trunks, carrying a towel, came up to her and asked her, "Do you believe in God?" She was surprised by the question but she replied, "Why, yes, I do." Then he asked her: "Do you go to church every Sunday?" Again, her answer was "Yes!" He then asked: "Do you read your Bible and pray every day?" Again she said, "Yes!" By now her curiosity was very much aroused. The little lad sighed with relief and said, "Will you hold my quarter while I go in swimming?" A faithful Christian is trustworthy member in a community.
We should be loyal to the state and the laws of the state, but when the state oversteps the mark and puts itself in the place of God, Christians are, as a last resort, absolved from obedience. We must give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and not the things that are God's. We must “obey God rather than human beings.”
Since everything is God’s, we must give ourselves to Him 100%, not just 10% on Sundays. We should be generous in fulfilling our Sunday obligations and find time every day for prayer and worship in the family, for the reading of the Bible and the proper training of our children in Faith and morals. St. Augustine teaches that when we truly succeed in "giving to God what is God's," we are "doing justice to God." Our contribution to the parish Church should be an expression of our gratitude to God, giving back to God all that he has given us. This will help us to combat the powerful influence of materialism in our lives and enable the Church to do God’s work.
This Sunday we should do a thorough examination of how well do we give to God what is His due. Do we take what belongs to God and give to somebody else?