“What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from others?’ And when he said, ‘From others,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the sons are free’ (Matthew 17:25-26).
Given our present socio-economic and political atmosphere, it has become a mark of prestige and even a great achievement for us to acquire dual citizenship in developed countries of the world. We do this by whatever means we can, perhaps by travelling abroad to have our kids, by getting married to foreigners abroad and so on.
One fact that has kept many really puzzled is that when we travel to these foreign nations, we become the most law-abiding citizens of all. We are prepared to obey every rule and follow carefully whatever instructions we are given so as not to miss the green card, that is, so as to achieve our aim of double citizenship. As Moses tells us in our first reading today, obedience to God’s commandments is non-negotiable: “What does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I command you this day for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13)
However, the truth we must bear in mind is that as Christians, we already have foreign citizenship in a country very different from ours. As St. Paul says: “We are ambassadors for Christ” (2nd Corinthians 5:20).
Jesus was talking about His imminent passion, how he would be delivered into the hands of men when some temple tax collectors came to Peter asking: “Does not your teacher pay the tax?” In those days, payment of taxes was a form of royalty given to a king who had conquered a people. The tax was a symbol of colonialism. This was why the Jews hated tax collectors who were working for the Roman authorities when indeed the only tax they should be paying was to God Himself (the temple tax).
Since Jesus is God, He ought not to be subjected to the payment of the temple tax. But in other to avoid sending the wrong message to those who would not understand, Jesus asked Peter to get a shekel from a fish in the sea. Jesus, not minding His double citizenship (being God and Man) still obeyed the law. Is it not a great contradiction that while we Christians obey the civil authorities just to maintain our status as double citizens in foreign nations, we complain about keeping God’s commands?
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my longing for heaven daily, Amen.
Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu