In this week’s lectionary gospel text, the Pharisees scheme to trap Jesus with what in journalistic parlance is known as a “gotcha” question -- asking him if it is lawful for religious folk to pay taxes to the emperor. After lashing out at them for “putting me to the test,” Jesus responds with his famous dictum that we should give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s. In this installment of The Immediate Word, team member Dean Feldmeyer points out how this is a timely question to consider with all of the ongoing controversy over how we ought to honor our civic icons and rituals like the flag and the national anthem. Dean notes that the important question is “What belongs to God?” -- and as we debate the proper distinctions between church and state, he wonders if we too easily try to make artificial separations between what belongs to God and what belongs to the modern equivalent of the emperor... our country. After all, Dean reminds us, everything belongs to God -- and that context informs Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ attempt to trap him. Perhaps, therefore, the devotion we often lavish on our national symbols ought to be reserved for our true sovereign -- the Lord almighty.
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