Do you see the trap these Pharisees were setting when they asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar? If he had said that the tax was not lawful, he would have been branded as a revolutionary and a threat to the Romans. If he had said that the tax was lawful, he would have been branded as a collaborator with the oppressive imperial regime.
Jesus saw right through the trap. Instead of falling for it, he gave them a simple yet profound answer—one that still asks us where we stand.
“What belongs to God” is all of his creation: the plants and animals of the earth, the stars of the sky, the sea and everything in it. And of course, his people—all of us. As the stars shine and the moon glows, as the birds sing and the trees bloom, they give glory to God. How much more should we, who are the crown of God’s creation, give him glory and honor? This is how we “repay to God what belongs to God”—by worshipping him, by following his commandments, and by reaching out to care for his loved ones.
The way we “repay to God” should affect the way we “repay to Caesar.” It should move us to find ways to care for the poor and homeless, to visit the sick and the elderly, and to lift up the lonely. It should move us to work toward transforming our towns and cities step-by-step. It should move us to take care of people, not just pay our taxes.