In the Gospel reading, the Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus into saying something that can be construed as sedition against the Romans. Jesus’ answer calls attention to the fact that the common currency of the time was Roman and so had Caesar’s image stamped on it. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, Jesus says, and give to God what is God’s.
The image of Caesar on the coin is an indication that the money is Caesar’s. But the point of Jesus’ line is also that each one of us is God’s because each of us bears stamped in his soul the image of God.
It is an honor and a glory to us, each one of us without exception, that we are in the image of God. But it is also an awesome responsibility. When the face of a body is disfigured by self-indulgence in food or drinking or smoking, when the face of a soul is twisted by envy or hatred or narcissistic possessiveness, the image of God in that person is warped. When others look at the face of that person, they will see distortion of God’s image.
And so our sins ought to grieve us. Who wants to be a person whose soul shows a distorted image of God?
But the same line of Christ’s that leads to this worry and sorrow also gives the consolation for it. Just as Caesar’s money belongs to Caesar, so we belong to God. We are his own. The God who made us in his image will not leave us in our sins. Through the redemption of Christ, God will make his image lovely in each one of us.
That is why Scripture says (Romans.8:29, I John 3:2) that when Christ comes again, each one of the faithful will be found in the image of Christ.
We wait in hope for that time.
Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University
**From Saint Louis University