I feel that when I am charitable it is Jesus alone who acts in me; the more I am united to Him the more do I love all my Sisters. If, when I desire to increase this love in my heart, the demon tries to set before my eyes the faults of one or other of the Sisters, I hasten to call to mind her virtues, her good desires; I say to myself that if I had seen her fall once, she may well have gained many victories which she conceals through humility; and that even what appears to me a fault may in truth be an act of virtue by reason of the intention. St. Therese of Lisieux — Story of A Soul, Chapter IX
(My thanks go out to my colleague and fellow worked in the little corner of the vineyard where is serve, Fr. Hummel, with whom I happened to have discussed this text recently)
Who are you trying to please? Really? Those whom you are trying to please, you tend to serve. So maybe ask yourself: Whom are you serving? “That’s easy,” you, say. No, no, no: wait a moment before you answer. Pharisee-ism is crouching at the door waiting to devour you, resist it.
The coin in your pocket bears an inscription: “Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of the divine Augustus, high priest,” but you claim that the God who is enthroned in the holy of holies is the one true God and alone divine — not Augustus — and Tiberius is priest to nothing. So what to do? Schemes seem to have abounded in the olden days to pay your taxes but make sure that somehow you did not have to handle the money with that blasphemous inscription and the idolatrous picture that it surrounded. But taxes you had to pay. It would have caused more troubles than it was worth to refuse to pay them.
Now, your allies are with you in the temple to argue with Jesus and he asks how you pay the taxes. What coins to do you use for it? One of you produces the coin and it says: “Tiberius Caesar, Augustus, son of the divine Augustus, high priest.” Blasphemy and idolatry stamped into metal and one of you brought it into the temple. Not a good start to the day.
But as always, it gets worse: "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God’s."
What will we do with that pronouncement? Do we see in this the endorsement of Jesus for the American principle of “separation of church and state?” Certainly the Pharisees made no such assumption of principle. But even we need to ask ourselves: is the assumption that there is a separation between church and state or is the assumption that the separation is between faith and state?
To put it another way: Even the good kings, like David, had to answer to God in the end. So did the bad kings like Ahab. Even the kings of the nations answer to God, even Nineveh is condemned now and again by the prophets and gets it comeuppance. How can we then speak of “the things that belong to God” versus “the things that belong to Cesar?” If a separation of realms was a reality then why would God be so rude as to transgress it?
But in our place and time that is a question that will get asked. “What do I owe to God?” The answer: “Everything, 24/7,” will be dismissed immediately as extreme, unrealistic, and impractical. I give the pharisees credit: At least they thought that all is owed to God, 24/7, and that it mattered not one iota that Cesar was happy but that it meant a lot that one gave to God what was God’s, namely, honor, praise, obedience, and love. Jesus’ answer merely said to them: “You are not giving to God what is God’s by all rights.” You can pour yourself a stiff half cup of rum and then cover it with coffee and cream should the parson come to the house and claim to be drinking coffee. Technically, you are right: you are drinking coffee. It is the “and” that is the problem. (The drink: Coffee, rum, and whipped cream is called “A Pharisee” in costal northern Germany. A parson seems to have named it)
But Cesar demands his tribute, our allegiance, sometimes even our lives. We carry the pack that the soldier demanded we carry for 2 miles even though 1 mile is our civil obligation. We give to those who ask or even demand. We “love” our enemies. (Matt 5:41-43) Before the altar we recollect ourselves and first make amends with those who are weighed down by resentment on account of us. (Matt 5:23-24) We do not do these things for the sake of those who beg. We do these things not for the ones who demand. We do them for the sake of God. To be more exact, we do them for the sake of the queen of virtues: Love, or as St. Therese would say: Charity. ( I Cor 13:13) That was the missing ingredient in the life of the Pharisees. They paid their taxes in grumbling and resentment and in utter hate of the emperor, who, like king David, was king, but very, very misguided.
You cannot sustain the claim to love God in the face of the fact that you hate your neighbor, (I John 4:20) even if that neighbor was a pagan Roman emperor with a blasphemous concept of himself. Was it really the idolatry and the blasphemy that was the problem or was it rather your hate of the blasphemer that drove you to hate everything that reminded you of him?
Those who believe in God ought to look with charity and compassion on all, including prince and pauper. They are to do what makes Charity increase for in Charity will be disclosed the heart of God. Apart from Charity, no truth is of value, even if it is read straight from the bible.