GIVE TO GOD WHAT IS GOD’S
We hear in the Gospel (Matt 22: 15-21) today, “Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and God what belongs to God.” Both the Pharisees and the Herodians are trying to ask Jesus’ opinion, “Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Jesus knew through and through what was in their minds. Jesus asks for a coin and He questions the Pharisees and Herodians – “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” Once they identify the coin is belonging to Caesar, then, He answers their question saying, “Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar and God what belongs to God.”
A couple from a foreign land was enquiring with me to be married in St. Joseph Church. They just wanted to do a church wedding without getting married, civilly, for their own personal reasons. Today’s Gospel let me to reflect on their enquiry, on the questions of Pharisees and Herodians, “Is it permissible to pay taxes to the Caesar or not?” The couple’s enquiry was of in the same nature, “Is it permissible to marry in the Church without marrying in the civil registration office?” Then, I explained to the couple.
In Malaysia, the National Registration Department (Jababtan Pendaftaran Negara – JPN) had made it compulsory for all non-Muslims couples to be registered under the ACT 1976 (Act 164) in 1 March 1982. It is a requirement and mandate of the JPN. If any Catholic couple desires to get married in the Catholic Church, first and foremost they need to do their Registration of Marriage (ROM), before their Church wedding. If the couple only did the ROM, they are still not married, in the eyes of the Catholic Church. Therefore, after the civil marriage in JPN, the couple will still need to prepare themselves both physically and spiritually for their Church Marriage.
Jesus never compromises his integrity and makes a very clear distinction between civil authority and religious authority, and He invites us to fulfil our duties and commitments both to the government and God. Jesus avoids the trap by asserting God’s sovereignty, which must be acknowledged and repaid to God on what belongs to God, and at the same time to hold the human laws legitimately.
Society must be governed by the authority to direct their action towards a common good. Paying the government’s tax represents paying back what the government has done in the terms of service. The government and its leaders should rule and direct the society justly according to the law for the well-being of everyone. Whereas the society has to be obedient and cooperate with the government’s law.
Likewise, the people of God should follow the way of God in accordance with the TRUTH from the Scripture. We need to live our lives according to God’s purpose set for us, and not of human’s. Therefore, what we have to repay to the government is to be obedient to the Laws and to pay God what we owe to God. Real living is to give God what belongs to God. We give ourselves to God every moment of our lives. We owe God our very lives. “Give the Lord glory and honour, He is the King and He governs His people in fairness,” (cf. Ps 95).
Rev. Fr. George Packiasamy