The Pharisees try to trap Jesus into choosing between God and Caesar by asking him a question about paying taxes. For Jesus it’s not a question of one or the other. Both have a place in our life. He has no problem with being a tax-paying citizen, but he knows that there is another dimension to life that we must pay attention to.
Jesus is telling us in effect that engagement in the world and a healthy spirituality are both necessary aspects of a well-lived life. We see a false dichotomy spring up in modern life in individuals who would like to see religion “stay out of” politics, as if our spirituality existed in a vacuum, divorced from much of our day-to-day life. It certainly was not that way for Jesus. His relationship with his heavenly Father inspired his actions and teachings.
As in many areas of life, to live as a good citizen and a spiritual person is first of all to be aware of the world around us. Awareness and education are key to an appropriate response to so many issues facing us today. What are the facts about issues such as racism, poverty, tax reform, disease, ecology, etc.? And how does the spirit of Christ move us in responding to such issues?
My awareness of the world around me informs my photography to a great extent. It’s one way I can focus outward and know that there is beauty and truth out there in the world, and that I can take in that beauty and truth with gratitude and with a desire to share it with others. A spirituality that appreciates the natural world will lead us to take care of it. In the end, we must find God in all of our experiences, including our experience of this material world. I think Jesus would approve.
“Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:21)