Do you know the origin of the term rabbit hole? Those days when kids were allowed to be kids, they engaged in several games, tricks and sports by themselves outside the home. When they go to hunt rabbits their greatest luck is if they should see the rabbit run into its hole. That significantly increases the chances of catching the rabbit. First, they search out its escape route and close it. Second, they introduce grassfire and smoke into the hole, then start digging. 99 percent of the time, the rabbit is caught in its hole or as it scurries to exit the hole. Hence, the term “rabbit hole” refers to “a bizarre situation or environment from which it is difficult to extricate oneself.” Politicians masterfully employ this tactic when they attack their opponents. They start by praising the person’s achievements: “Senator Davis is a decent woman who loves her country; she served the nation creditably and sacrificed so much to put her nation first.” What you hear next is the preposition “BUT” and then goes the attack. Do you notice that it was from the Pharisees and Herodians that today’s politicians learned that tactic? (But you can agree with me that since the last election season politicians developed less compunction about their vileness. They no longer want you to mistake them as civil in any way).
The Pharisees and Herodians of today’s gospel thought that they caught Jesus in a rabbit hole with the question: “Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not; should we pay or should we not?” These enemies who don’t see eye to eye are willing to unite against Christ. The well laid trap was to have Jesus answer either way and be caught either as a traitor against his people or a revolutionary against a sitting authority.
The stunning response that Jesus gave: “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” did not just silence his adversaries, it indicted them as the real impostors. By carrying the denarius on themselves they showed that they already have allegiance to Caesar and needn’t have someone advise them on that. But Jesus proceeds to answer and teach about the relationship between civic duty and religious duty. Caesar, Trump or Macron may be good or bad people, may know God or may not; just like we heard in the first reading: Cyrus, King of Persia (Iran), was a pagan whom God used to deliver his people from Babylonian (Iraqi) oppression. The puzzle which Jesus resolves is: Should we pay taxes to their government? And His answer—“You bet!”
Your local street and Highway-69 were paved with tax dollars, and so was the Fire Station, the street signs and traffic lights all kept on with tax dollars. It’s also right to serve in the military, in the jury when called, in the city council or board of education, and above all to vote come November 3. This is giving Caesar what belongs to Caesar. But it is even more important to give to God His own share. And that is—ALL YOU HAVE AND ARE, ALL THERE IS, including Caesar. God always respects Caesar—after all, He gave him life and placed him as ruler. It’s always Caesar (government) who wants to take what belongs to God, like our right to practice our faith without government intrusion. If ever that conflict arise, as it often does, it’s your duty to stand with God against any Caesar.