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The Temporal And The Eternal

Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's
Matthew 22:15-21

Sermon Topic Conformity

Sermon Week Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Scripture Summary Matthew 22:21


Today's Gospel Lesson describes an attempt by the Pharisees to trap Jesus. The Pharisees begin to carry out their scheme with great cunning. They praise Jesus for His dedication to truth and for His courage in expressing it. "Teacher," they say to Him, "we know that You are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for You do not regard the position of men" (Mt. 21:16). Then the Pharisees ask the thorny question: "Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" (Mt. 21:17). The Pharisees want Jesus to give a "Yes" or "No" answer. If He answers "Yes," the Pharisees will claim that He has betrayed God almighty by taking sides with the Roman invader against Palestine. If He answers "No," the conspirators will denounce Him to the Romans as a political threat -- a rebel who opposes the law of the occupying, ruling power.

Jesus begins His response by denouncing their bad faith. Rather than searching for truth, they are searching for a way to get rid of Him. "Why put Me to the test, you hypocrites," Jesus says. Then He answers their question with His famous maxim: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's" (Mt. 22:21). Jesus could see that the atmosphere of confrontation and hypocrisy created by the Pharisees was unsuited to honest debate. Therefore, He did not give a direct reply to the question. He did not resolve the question, He evaded it. In so doing he foiled the Pharisees' carefully laid plan to entrap Him.

In this world there are two spheres of authority. We must conscientiously discharge our obligations toward God and man, both. But, inevitably, conflicts arise between the two spheres. And the real question to be answered is, "What course do we follow when the temporal and the eternal clash?"

In the fifth chapter of Acts, Luke tells us what happened to Peter and the other Apostles when confronted with that very situation. They were brought before the [...]

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