Caesar vs Jesus


Yesterday it was the turn of Father Nicholas to preach and he delivered a great homily on the need to dedicate ourselves entirely to Christ. He text was the Gospel reading in which the pharisees attempt to trap Jesus by asking if it is right to pay tax. Jesus demanded a coin and asked whose image it bore. When they replied “Caesar’s!” he famously told them “render unto Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God’s” 

Many preachers make the mistake, Fr Nicholas told us, of imagining Jesus is accepting a necessary divide. That there are some things worldly and others divine. Each meriting service. Leading to the common practice today of living in the world and coming to church rather than being the church living in the world. Fr Nicholas then asked which of us neatly divides life/attitude/ behaviour into two separate areas labeled “church” and “rest of life”. And if we did this without caring we should get up and get out! It is just not Christian.

Think about it harder, he urged. And see how Jesus was being far cleverer that we think. Because the reality of taxation is that it is all an enormous confidence trick. There may be winners and losers within the system but the system itself takes more than it gives. Caesar, that is the civic realm, is dependent on the people he does not, in truth, provide a single thing for them that isn’t first taken from them.

Meaning, rather obviously, that Caesar gives nothing. He takes. Where God has given the world we inhabit, the resources we use, the life we enjoy, the air we breathe. Back to Jesus clever quip then and we see that in rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s – we owe NOTHING AT ALL. But in rendering to God what is God’s – we owe EVERYTHING! What a brilliant point and what a sermon it was!

Because so much of what is threatening the faith today does stem from misplaced confidence in the philosophy of the world. Just ponder the recent synod where the call for change was due to the prevailing attitude within Caesar’s realm at this current time! Has the world changed its view regarding the sexual act- surely the church must catch up or be denounced. Has the world accepted serial monogamy in preference to lifelong marriage – well the church better embrace the change or risk falling out of favour.  Do Africans dare stand against Caesar’s thinking- disregard them entirely and call them primitive…Yes even lunatic Cardinals are to be found dancing along to this seductive tune.  For life is more comfortable when you go with the flow. Rendering to Caesar what is God’s in the process.

We cannot live with one foot in the church and the other in the world, horse trading morals to balance the two. It leads only to a compromised version of divine revelation. What God calls for- what we see again and again in the lives of the Saints- is total fidelity. A total surrendering of the will to  God . A total rejection of sin. It is hard. We balk. But that is what holiness is about. And anything less than total self giving is to render less to God than He calls for.

The church is living through a crisis. In truth little to do with sex -though our culture can think of little else as it pushes for a relaxing historic teaching in pursuit of the goals of the sexual revolution. No the crisis is centred on loss of true holiness of life, the total giving of self to God. The comfort of the modern world has won many souls including those in the church. So that even the bishops- those called to be guardians of faith- are found leading lives of compromise and corruption. As tales of abuse and adultery make clear.

The cure to this seeping wound in the body of Christ is not to make the sins MORE acceptable. And stating this does not negate the need for mercy, forgiveness and fresh starts. No the cure is to reject the world in favour of the Gospel. To turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ. To stop rendering to Caesar what he has no right to demand and stand up for Jesus and the faith he revealed. Why is this very obvious point so difficult for some to accept. Yes even those in pointy hats?!

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16 thoughts on “Caesar vs Jesus

  1. Jesus demanded a coin and asked whose image it bore. When they replied “Caesar’s!” he famously told them “render unto Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God’s”.

    One other lesson I learnt from a bible study class on this passage was that, the pharisees identified the Ceasar’s image on the coin, but they failed to apply the notion that Ceasar or man, was created in God’s image. Thus by seeing Ceasar’s image, they were actually seeing God’s image. Therefore I agree with you when you say that, Ceasar actually gives nothing.

  2. The liberal secular democracy you so often decry has given you freedom of speech and belief, even to discriminate against those your church refuses to ordain. There are many people in ‘the world’, of various religions and none, doing sterling work of sacrificial service to others, in the NHS, in schools and the Armed Forces, for example, who put many in the Church to shame. Their salaries are paid by taxation for their efforts. Many people have left the Church – or will not join it- because they find more happiness and fulfilment in a world which respects them more as persons than the Church ever will. The recent Vatican conference proved this.

    1. It is hard to see what point you try to make- other than a general destain for the church. But if you think the secular realm gave Christians freedom and liberality then you are truly in need of some basic education. I think you will find it was the other way round. And that the very liberalism we Christians handed down is what is eroding within the new brave new world that shares your apparent hatred of historic christian teuth

    2. ‘They find more happiness and fulfilment in a world which respects them more as persons’. What does that mean? Mercy without truth is false, as Pope Francis points out in his final speech at the Synod. The world simply offers to affirm us in our sinfulness. Jesus wants us to be holy – the blessed form of happiness. Jesus loves sinners, forgives them and says ‘go and sin no more’. We must bend to the ways of God, not God to the ways of us. We are back in the Garden of Eden. Sometimes the fruit of that tree looks mighty good to eat, but if God says no then we have to choose. Do we trust the way of God or do we want to do it our own way? I can choose to be stubborn. It is the same stubbornness that says that not only am I welcome in the Church (true) but also any ideology I choose to bring with me (false). No saint ever insisted on a contrary ideology. Achieving holiness means having the humility, strength and courage to be meek – to be docile to God’s truth and will, as it is in Heaven. It’s the goal of our lives to become saints and there is no greater tragedy than to miss the opportunity to be one.

      1. ‘They find more happiness and fulfilment in a world which respects them more as persons’ What does that mean? asks Marie
        It is illegal in the UK to discriminate against people on grounds of gender, race, creed or sexuality. The Church is exempt from such laws. The RC Church discriminates against remarried couples, gay people, and won’t even allow discussion on women’s ordination. Marie might regard such secular law as ‘sinful’. But most sensible people welcome and obey it.

        1. Fr David, we all have a guiding light by which we make our decisions. Mine is not secular society which is driven by an increasingly materialist worldview -with the vestiges of Christianity in its law dwindling. Mine is the Word, Christ, manifested in His Church. The Church obeys Christ, so she discriminates between behaviour that is sinful (misses the mark) and that which is not. The ‘rules’ are there to keep us safe, like guardrails, that allow free play without injury or mortality. A freedom comes from respecting restrictions on behaviour put there by God. As I said, all people are welcome in the Church but not all ideologies, not all behaviours. So rather than look to what is legal (of Caesar) and measure myself against those tenants as the basis of discrimination, I look to the Church (of God). Being secular does not equal being sensible. Clearly some secular law is sinful. Do you agree with abortion too?

          1. Like many conservative Catholics, Marie sees moral questions in black and white. How does she know that decisions made by unmarried men on contraception, divorce and abortion etc are the same as God’s? It is a circular argument to claim the Church says so, therefore it must be right.
            I regard abortion as a human tragedy and cannot “agree” with it. Sadly, ‘legal’ abortion is a preferable alternative to other dangerous methods which, in the real world, many desperate women choose. The reality is between January 1980 and December 2013, at least 159,779 women travelled from the Catholic Republic of Ireland to access safe abortion services to another country. Many Irish people have discovered that living under RC ‘laws’ leads to misery – which is why that nation is becoming increasingly secular.

  3. even to discriminate against those your church refuses to ordain

    I am really confused now. I don’t think you can be the Fr David who comments on TA. who gives every indication that he disapproves of the ‘innovation’ of women’s ordination. If you are. do you speak with one voice on one blog and another voice here?

  4. The last couple of posts with ‘admin’ discussing the synod are so Anglican Papalist in their attitude and so out of touch with the spirit of the Synod and the Catholic Church as a whole. They are condemnatory of any attempt to engage with the secular world which is the reality in which we all live. That secular world is also very different in other parts of the World and the priorities are very different. The Synod seemed fixated on the issues of homosexuality and divorce because of its Western bias, nothing about child-headed families, the problems of polygamous marriages and conversion, migrant workers and the destruction of family life….I could go on. You always talk about disagreement within the Catholic Church as if it’s the Anglican Church with same aggression that you exhibit towards Anglicans who disagree with you. What comes across is that anyone who disagrees with you is anathema. It’s not a C of E Synod, it’s a preparatory discussion which will only be completed in a years time.
    I can only guess who you mean by “lunatic Cardinals” and that presumably includes your own one after his comments on returning from the synod.

    1. Peter, be careful with the idea that we must ‘ to engage with the secular world which is the reality in which we all live’. How would you have done that in Nazi Germany?

      1. Marie, we all engage with the secular world otherwise we wouldn’t pay our electricity bills or only talk to our fellow Catholics……?????

        1. Your context was in regard to the Synod and comments in the posts and in particular about homosexuality and divorce. I assume that’s the secular engagement you were referring to, not about paying electricity bills!!

          1. No, Marie, it wasn’t with reference to the synod, homosexuality or divorce, it was about ‘engaging with the secular world’. I’m not sure what your comment on Nazi Germany has to do with that…unless you were living in Germany or Nazi occupied Europe and had little choice. It doesn’t apply to either of us.

  5. Following this and the preceding post I’d like to leave you all with this quote from Desiderata:
    “Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
    As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
    Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
    Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
    If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
    for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. ”
    For myself I think I will stop reading this blog so as to “avoid loud and aggressive persons” that I find increasingly “vexations to the spirit”.

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