When asked whether to pay the coin of tribute, Jesus says render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s [Gospel read at a mass on 10-19-14]. Knowing Jesus’s intimate triune God relationship, present and begotten within God since the creation, Father, Son, Holy Spirit, all-powerful, all loving, what is He saying we owe Caesar? What, if we serve God, is left over? To what other master and system do we owe allegiance? The dilemma for followers of Christ is the sense of being unfair to our neighbors if we don’t fully pay taxes to our government—leave them holding the bag for community services. Yet so little federal money is spent for these good purposes, and so much badly spent on war, that payment national income tax has become a case of cooperation with evil.
The United States, as its leaders have become ever richer, has become ever more obsessed with its security. There is waste in every aspect of our government, but the Dept. of Homeland Security now added to the Dept. of Defense together waste an absurd amount of money—so much money that they can’t even keep track of it.
The truth is our kingdom is not of this world, and no government represents Jesus, because they, against His teaching, will kill to maintain dominion. The primary issue is not what is fair to government coffers, but what is fair, what is faithful to our God. But Christians now give much more to the state, and its military than they do to any church, or charitable, or social justice cause.
When asked about even the temple tax, Jesus said, “Go fish,” and if one finds a coin in the mouth of the catch, give to the temple. Neither temple nor country take the place of rendering first to the need we see in good conscience, to make God’s love more present in the world of our neighbors. Witness the stories of the Good Samaritan, and the Widow’s mite.
Money serves God when it heeds the advice of the Last Judgment, and helps the “least of the brethren,” and when it furthers the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, even to concrete expression of love of the enemy.
There is need for good stewardship [story of the Good Steward], and responsible use [parable of the Talents], but this has the powerful counterweight of warning against hoarding [the rich man’s Barns] and always trusting in God first for basic needs [lilies of the fields].
U.S. Christians live in a nation awash in too much money, grasped by too few hands. Wall Street financial interests are the ever more predominant comptrollers of our political system. Our government has become impossibly rich, favoring the rich. The deck is stacked against the unborn, and the world’s poor, to guarantee the house of commerce’s lifestyle. We kill the child in the womb, and the child in the enemy village, to protect Caesar’s palace.
So as we approach the season of Advent and the birth of the Prince of Peace, with Caesar’s feast day of April 15th not far off, I begin to examine my conscience and pocketbook once again. What should we render, and to whom?
Peace Tax prayer vigil at St. Clair Co. Court House 7-4-13, for more info - NWTRCC