What Belongs to God

Dedicated, with thanks, to Father Geoff Farrow, and, with hope, to ourpresidential candidates.

Listening to the presidential debates, I’ve hated the bug-on-water dance that the candidates do around the questions.And here’s Jesus in the Gospel this week , sounding similar. The questionposed to him is salved with praise—but Jesus is savvy. He knows these are razor-edged smiles.

So is Jesus being politic? “Yes, it’s lawful to pay the tax,” and he’s a collaborator, a disloyal Jew. “No, it’s notlawful to pay the tax,” and he’s a trouble-stirring rebel. Maybe Jesus is merely hedging his bets.

But let’s give him the benefit of doubt. It’s the Christian thing to do. Let’s say there can be can’t-catch-mewords that are also life-words (“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but to God what belongs to God”). I am left with an image, concretely—looking at a coin, I can see the face on it. But I don’t see the face of God stamped on anything, unless we’re counting crucifixes, and I doubt Jesus was gunning for a big pile of crucifixes. I come out of this story knowing what to give to Caesar, but with much less clarity on what to give to God.

Where is God’s image? Where is God’s inscription? In me, I want to say, pointing to Genesis, in us. But what does that mean? I’ll be a bad debater here—I’ll reach out for something of which I can’t guarantee the truth, much less the palatability, and I’ll tell you what I suspect it means.

I must look beyond the easy, stamped-on meanings I have made of myself, and remember that there is a mysterious self– deeper, stranger, more frightening, and far less politic, and it is the impulses and creativity of this selfthat I owe to God. It is this that shall be taxed, and taxing, not out of punitive greed, but because without it my system will cease to function, its parts ungraced, unfunded.

Do you know that self? It wakes me restless and draws me through the flames of fear. It wrecks my routine, devours easy lies and willful ignorance. In what world is it good citizenship to ignore a crumpled stranger? Not my world, says this self. In what world do you swallow your true words for sugared acceptance from anyone, includingyour church? Not my world, it insists. I want to shrug it off. But this week Jesus tells me that I am accountable, and that I must hunt for the currency with which to pay. The truth is I am rich in this coin, and you are also. I only hope we will have the courage to render it forth.
Rebecca Fullan recently received her Master’s in Theological Studies from Harvard Divinity School. She is currentlyliving in New York City and searching for employment that will enrich her, she hopes, in both Caesar’s and God’s currencies.
(Photo Credit: Charlotte Rahn-Lee)

4 Responses

  1. Rebecca;
    I very much appreciated what you wrote. As writers, we deal in the currency of words, but what do we say that is of enduring value? How do we use words to strengthen and enhance the Kingdom of God? I was wondering if you would contact me. I’d like to discuss a writing project I am completing for the Harvard Divinity Magazine. Thank you for your thoughts and kind consideration of my request. I can be reached at barbbodengraven@comcast.net (MTS from Weston Jesuit School of Theology 2005).
    Barb Bodengraven

  2. Rebecca:

    Thank you focle. Hopefully, our thoughts will provoke us to action. Great job.

    Linda Fullan

  3. Rebecca:

    I read your piece with growing admiration for your talent and your spirituality. Over the time I have known you, each has been nurtured, shaped and put to God’s greatest use, to communicate His message, His words through our own. A better messenger He cannot have. You do us proud as well as all of those whom you touch with your message.

    I thank you for sharing this with me and look forward to your future projects whatver they may be.

    Continued success
    Jeffrey McGraw

  4. One more time into the breach dear friend, and you account yourself admirably. Clear thought, clear reason and enough clarity of purpose to make Bill O’Reilly see the light.

    Once more I am proud of you. I look forward to your next entry.
    What a perfect holiday gift you give when you opine in whatever space you choose. Tis the gift that keeps on giving.

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