“Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at.” Mark 12:14–15
These Pharisees and Herodians were sent to trap Jesus in His speech. These men were very politically minded and loved to pick sides and find fault with others. They were self-righteous and cared little about the salvation of souls. So they came to Jesus with what appeared to be an innocent question. They appear to presume that Jesus would voice opposition to paying the census tax to Caesar, and, if He did, they were ready to report Him to the civil authorities. They didn’t care about the truth; they only cared about trapping our divine Lord. When they brought the Roman coin to Jesus with the image of Caesar on it, Jesus spoke that profoundly wise line, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”
Clearly, if these hypocritical religious leaders would have come to Jesus with humility and sincerity, Jesus would have responded to them much differently. But because they came only to trap, twist and destroy our Lord, Jesus puts them in their place with an act of divine wisdom. He doesn’t show support for paying the census tax, nor does He speak against it. Therefore, this Gospel passage ends with the line: “They were utterly amazed at him.” “Amazement” is the right response. Therefore, in a sense, we can learn from these hypocritical religious leaders. Whenever we come face-to-face with the profound wisdom of God, we should experience awe and holy amazement.
Of course, the amazement they experienced was on account of Jesus thwarting their evil trap. But even though that is the case, we can learn from this that the wisdom of God can never be outdone. God’s wisdom silences the foolishness of the age and reveals the hidden malice behind that evil.
Have you ever been confronted by the trickery of the secular “know-it-alls” of our age. Have you ever been challenged by another, had your faith directly attacked, or your moral convictions called into question? Most likely, if you have chosen to live your faith openly and with confidence, you may have felt the attack of another. For those who lack a deep faith and a clear gift of divine wisdom, such trickery can cause confusion and anxiety. You may find you do not know how to respond and feel trapped by the erroneous “wisdom” of the age. In that case, what do you do? The only answer to the false doctrines and deceptions we will all encounter within the growingly secular and atheist world is the answer that comes from divine wisdom. By ourselves, none of us is wise enough to combat these errors. Therefore, our only recourse is to continually turn to the wisdom of God.
We turn to the wisdom of God through prayer and sacred study. Our prayer opens our minds to the clear voice of God Who speaks pure truth. And sacred study, especially of the Scripture, the teachings of the Church and the lives of the saints, will help to clarify God’s voice and dispel the confusion the world tries to throw at us. In the end, if we are not immersing our minds in the true wisdom of God, we will be unprepared for that which we encounter within the world.
Reflect, today, upon your need to be filled with divine wisdom so as to navigate the trickery and foolishness of the world. Acknowledge that you are not wise enough on your own to cut through the confusion of life. Pray for the gift of wisdom and allow our Lord to bestow it upon you.
Lord of all Truth, You are wise beyond all worldly wisdom, and You thwart the trickery of the evil one. Open my mind, dear Lord, to Your holy Truth so that I may be able to navigate through the challenges of life. Bestow Your wisdom upon me, dear Lord, so that I may follow You wherever You lead. Jesus, I trust in You.