“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him. – Mark 12:17 (NIV)
When Jesus was gaining the trust of the Jews while also drawing the ire of the Pharisees, this question that would have salvaged the Pharisees’ sinking appeal to their subordinates brought them otherwise. Wise and articulate enough, this passage did not only sidetrap Jesus’ situation but it had also drawn a lot of inspiration to statesmen and officials alike.
One common interpretation is the complete submission of man to God as humans are the product of God’s love since inception – all before material things, material things that is due to the State’s role. Just as Pope Pius XI said in his encyclical letter Divini redemptoris
“The human person ought to be put in the first rank of earthly realities”,
this, of course, includes Caesar’s government, or any State or government.
However, this also puts into perspective the role of the government and its relationship to its people in paying taxes. These taxes are due to the government to provide what is best for the common good – all who pay taxes. This tax ideally neutralizes man’s norm in the State as a human being coexisting to fellow human being driven in one common goal. As MacLellan once said:
“The individual comes before the State.. the only purpose of Government is to guarantee individual freedoms”.
Thus, this premise may shed light when role of personal choice and role on the State haze the thin line. Give what is due to our God, our faith and our institution Church, while not neglecting the freedom inherent to every single person in the State.