How many of us remember or have been reminded of the words of president John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address on 1/20/61 when he said: "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you , ask what you can do for your country." The message in today's Gospel could have been added to that address and would read: "Don't ask what God can do for me, ask instead "What can I do for God." Today's gospel lesson gives the correct answer, helping us to understand what our obligation is to God and to our country.
In today's Gospel the Pharisees were trying to entrap him in speech, kind of like the media tries to entrap those running for government offices in their speech. Just as today when people butter you up with compliments they did just that to Jesus when they said: "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth." I'm sure Jesus did what you and I do when that is the introduction, we go on guard expecting a bombshell or criticism to follow and of course the Pharisees did with the question: "Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" We may think we have a lot of taxes but that government had one that our government hasn't tried yet. The Census tax was one which each person owed to the emperor just for being a citizen.
They thought they had a great question because, if Jesus answered with a simple yes or no, they had him. If Jesus said it was unlawful to pay the tax they would report him to the Roman government and if he said it was lawful he would be discredited in the eyes of the people who were against paying taxes to a pagan emperor. His answer was kind of a yes but. Essentially saying that we have a dual citizenship, country by birth and citizenship in heaven as a gift from God. Just as they, we are required to pay taxes to the government to support services they provide us such as roads, police, fire and military. We as well have an obligation to God for that which God provides. What does God provide to you and me? Everything. On that base it might seem that the logical answer is that we are to give our entire selves to God. That almost sounds like fulfilling our obligation to God for all he provides is to give our entire life to him by becoming a monk in a monastery or a nun in a convent, but that isn't true.
Each of us can follow what Jesus said when he said: "Give to God what is God's", in our individual lives no matter what age we are, no matter what occupation we are engaged in, no matter what marital status we are called to. We do that in essentially three ways:
By utilizing all the gifts which God has given each of us in the most effective way possible. Not burying our talents like the man did in the Gospel story but by using each of our God given talents to the best of our ability and having them returning to God with dividends. Always realizing that each of us is the manager or steward of God's gifts, dedicating at least some of our time, talent and treasures to God.
Taking time every day for prayer and reading God's Word in scripture.
Living according to God's truths to the best of our ability, letting it show so that we are seen as Christians and for us parents training our children in faith and morals by our words and deeds.
That's the way we are to express our gratitude to God for providing 100% of what we have.
Some churches teach that if we give a lot to church then God will make us prosperous but that isn't what God promises nor is it proven by the lives of those who gave or are giving their entire lives to God. All we have to do is look at Jesus' apostles. They gave up everything if follow Jesus and what was their return? All were martyred except St. John and he was reportedly put into a pot of boiling oil but escaped death and was banished to the island of Patmos.
The return we get is both in this world and in the next. When we give to God the things that are God's we become more like God, more compassionate, loving, forgiving and experience with increased happiness and joy, and of course everlasting life with God where there is ultimate happiness without worries, problems or suffering.