A Double Citizenship

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29th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isa 45: 1, 4-6
1 Thes 1:1-5b
Mt 22:15-21

After speaking three parables indicating the Jewish leaders, Jesus is attacked. Both groups of the Jewish leaders, Pharisees and Herodians, attack Jesus on a serious matter: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

In Jesus’ time, Palestine was an occupied nation. It was governed by the Roman Empire. The Jews definitely did not like the Roman Empire. According to William Barclay,[i] there were three types of taxes that Roman government demanded. (1) Ground tax; a man had to pay one-tenth of grain and one-fifth of oil and wine of his product. (2) Income tax; all men had to pay one percent of their income. (3) Poll tax; every male, age 14-65, and female, age 12-65, had to pay this tax. Its value was equal to a usual day’s wage. The Pharisees challenged Jesus on the poll tax.

My friends, God provides everything for us in this world, but how do you and I moderate our earthly needs wisely in order to gain heaven?

The Pharisees put Jesus in a serous situation. If he says “no,” he can be arrested because he does not obey the Roman duty. If he says “yes,” he can be called a traitor to his nation and he can loose the favor to the Jews who despise the Roman government. Furthermore, the most dangerous trap, according to the Jews, is that there is only one King who is God. Therefore, if Jesus says “yes” paying tax to the Roman king, Jesus insults God whom He is preaching and revealing as God His Father and the God of Israel. How dangerous it was!

Jesus’ answer, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” makes all Pharisees and Herodians mute with admiration. Yes, human beings should never ever test God.

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What can you learn from the Gospel today? Every Christian has a double citizenship, earthly citizenship and heavenly citizenship. You can deny none of them. As an earthly citizen, you are born in this world, in this society, in this community, in this family with the purpose of fulfilling your humanity in this earthly life. You are created in God’s image, and continue to grow in the likeness of God. In this particular environment, you are invited to live fully and responsibly while building your family, your community, your society, and a better world.

As a heavenly citizen, you are baptized and become a child of God. Your journey does not end in this world, but in heaven. It is better to take advantage of this earthly world to gain the heavenly world. The earthly value will pass by, but you should not reject them, rather learning how to use them wisely as a means to gain heavenly kingdom.

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There’s a story about a proud young man who came to Socrates asking for knowledge. He walked up to the muscular philosopher and said, “O great Socrates, I come to you for knowledge.” Socrates recognized a pompous numbskull when he saw one. He led the young man through the streets, to the sea, and chest deep into water. Then he asked, “What do you want?” “Knowledge, O wise Socrates,” said the young man with a smile. Socrates put his strong hands on the man’s shoulders and pushed him under. Thirty seconds later Socrates let him up. “What do you want?” he asked again. “Wisdom,” the young man sputtered, “O great and wise Socrates.” Socrates crunched him under again. Thirty seconds passed, thirty-five. Forty. Socrates let him up. The man was gasping. “What do you want, young man?” Between heavy, heaving breaths the fellow wheezed, “Knowledge, O wise and wonderful…” Socrates jammed him under again Forty seconds passed. Fifty. “What do you want?” “Air!” he screeched. “I need air!” “When you want knowledge as you have just wanted air, then you will have knowledge.”[ii]

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My friends, God provides everything for us in this world, but how do you and I moderate our earthly needs wisely in order to gain heaven?


[i] See William Barclay, The Gospel of Mathew, (Kentucky: WJK, 2001), 317.
[ii] Galaxie Software, 10,000 Sermon Illustrations (Biblical Studies Press, 2002; 2002).
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