Gospel of Matthew 22:15–21
Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.
The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for you do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
In this Gospel I am drawn to the power and clarity of Jesus’ response. Firstly, Jesus calls out the hypocrisy. These leaders are showing something on the outside – acknowledgement of Jesus’ genuine authority, but on the inside, they have evil intent and are bent on trapping Jesus.
Jesus answers them with a question that leaves these leaders amazed. Because Jesus is only interested in their relationship with God, his question brings them back to the meaning of life and God’s genuine authority.
Today we are urged to call out hypocrisy like Jesus and always look to lead each other into relationship with their deeper selves and God.
Mary Ward dealt wisely with church leaders, always standing in the truth of who she was, embracing freedom in the midst of oppression. The hypocrisy of church leaders shocked her, particularly when her Institute was suppressed so violently at the time. Today we still need to work together to call out hypocrisy.
Freedom, verity and sincerity were integral to how Mary lived in the world.
I pray for the wisdom to see hypocrisy in leadership when it is present and call it out like Jesus. Not to shame, but instead keep focus on our deeper selves and God.