In today’s Gospel the Pharisees and the Herodians together come to Jesus. The Gospel states, “Knowing their malice, Jesus said….” How did Jesus know they were up to no good? Well, it did not take any special divine insight on Jesus’ part, just shrewd politics. You see the Pharisees and the Herodians were bitter enemies and rivals. So to see them working together immediately would alert you that something was afoot and that it wasn’t pretty.
So the Pharisees and Herodians ask Jesus their trick question: “is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” They thought that they had Jesus trapped on the horns of a dilemma. If Jesus said “yes” then He would appear to be a traitor to his people, in cahoots with the Roman occupiers. But if he said “no” the Romans would not look upon that kindly. He was trapped either way.
But Jesus is not so easily boxed in. “Show me the coin used to pay the tax,” Jesus says. Then He asks: “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”
Image and inscription. Today Jesus could ask “whose brand and whose logo?” That really is what Jesus is asking. The image and the inscription on the ancient coin serve the exact same purpose as brands and logos do today. They show what the coin is all about.
Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars developing brands and logos, and spend millions in promoting and protecting them. Their brands and logos are incredibly powerful and valuable. They quickly go to court to protect them.
Recently I went online to check some of the most famous brands. According to one web site the 35th most iconic corporate logo worldwide is Dunkin Donuts.
# 29 is Lego. #22 = Starbucks #11 = Walmart # 7 = McDonald’s
#4 = Apple #3 = Ford #2 = Coca-Cola and the #1 Corporate Logo worldwide: Nike Anyone here have the Nike logo on your person?
What about US?? Whose image and whose inscription is on us? Well, we are told in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis, that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God. In Chapter 1, verses 26 and 27 we read: “Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. …. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
So we bear the image and likeness of God our Creator. But as Christians there is even more. By our Baptism every one of us is reconfigured in the image of Jesus Christ. The image that we are to show forth is not any corporate image, not our own self, but rather Jesus living in us. Our image, our “brand” if you will, is the Risen and Glorified Jesus Christ. That is the best image of all. And our inscription, our “logo”?? Why that is none other than the Holy Spirit that has been poured into our hearts in Baptism and in our Confirmation, that confirms, or guarantees, that we are God’s own beloved children. We could say our brand is Jesus and our logo is the Holy Spirit. And you cannot do better than that!
So what are we to do with all that? Jesus gives us a succinct and powerful answer in today’s Gospel. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”
Ceasar represents all that is of this world, all that is about love of power and riches, all that is self-serving and proud, all that is about self-aggrandizement and Me, Me, Me.
That is NOT our brand nor our logo. Rather we are to give to God what belongs to God, and that means our very selves. We belong to God. We are created in God’s image, we are redeemed in the image of Jesus, we are sanctified and sealed with the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we are to give to God our very selves.
My friends, we have incredible dignity as the children of God. We are created for and by God, redeemed by Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit. All we are, and all that we have, are God’s. And that makes every one of us supremely loved and very precious.
Give to God what belongs to God; your very self. AMEN