When Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 2016, many people were surprised. They forgot that songs are poems put to music. One of his Grammy Award winning songs was: Gotta Serve Somebody.
You may be an ambassador to England or France,
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance,
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world,
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls.
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,
You’re gonna have to serve somebody.
The Pharisees and Herodians who asked Jesus a question about taxes were interested in one thing: getting Jesus in trouble. That tax in question was used by the Roman Emperor to oppress the Jews who paid it. If Jesus said that it IS lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, he would lose favor with the people. If Jesus said people did NOT have to pay taxes, he would be arrested for treason. Jesus saw what they were trying to do and gave one of his best known teachings. “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”
Here and elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus seems to have only two choices, but he found a third way. Coins just like the one in today’s Gospel can be found today. The coin belongs to Caesar because his image is clearly seen. But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He reminds the people of that time and this time something we should never forget. The first book in the Bible declares that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, we belong to God.
St. Paul tells in Philippians., “Our citizenship is in heaven.” (3:20) On the one hand, either by birth or perhaps test, we are citizens of a nation here on earth. With that comes rights and responsibilities, duties and obligations. On the other hand, though baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. If and when an earthly power asks us to choose between the two, we had better choose to follow God. The Kingdom of Heaven lasts forever. Everything else will pass away.
The words of Jesus challenge us today. How well are we giving ourselves to God? Do our possessions, our hearts, our loyalties lie with God or elsewhere? How does the way we spend our money, our time, our energy, our resources, our gifts reflect the truth that all of it and all of us belong to God? Bob Dylan was right. We are going to have to serve somebody. SERVE GOD!