Most of the coins and currency used in the United States bear the words, “In God We Trust.” The idea for this arose during the Civil War when Salmon Chase was the Secretary of the Treasury. Although the Civil War was at full tilt, regardless of identifying with North or South, almost everyone held in common their Christian faith in God. Secretary Chase thought that the motto would somehow become a source of hope.
Today it is very difficult. Rather than using God and faith as a source of hope and unity, many use God and faith to create division. There are constant lawsuits attacking the right to have displays of faith in public. There have even been attempts to have the motto “ In God We Trust “ removed from our money because it offends non-Christians, atheists, and agnostics.
Do we see faith in God as a gift that can unite us as did Secretary Chase, or is our faith such that we really don’t completely live “under God” ?
Matthew himself lived in a politically charged environment. The Jews had revolted against their occupiers, the Romans, which resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem in the year A.D. 70. Writing more than 10 years later, Matthew had a community that also experienced severe divisions within society between the Christian faith and other faiths, between following Christ and following an emperor who believed himself divine.
The coin in those days bore the image of the emperor, so legally the coin belonged to the emperor so when they tried to trap Jesus, Jesus simply indicated that the coin was the emperor’s anyway - so it should be given back. He would not fall into the dispute about taxes. Jesus, however, did not stop there, . By implication, and believing that we are made in God’s image, we belong to God. Jesus said that we must be as careful about our obligation to God as we are to our obligations to our government.
We pay our taxes. We obey the law. For the most part, we do our best to be good citizens. Are we as careful about our obligations to God as we are to the State? Are we as good citizens of the Kingdom of God as we are of our kingdoms on earth?
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