Today's Gospel contains the famous phrase "Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and unto God what belongs to God" (Mark 12:17). It leaves us with an interesting question: "To whom do things really belong?"
Property and possessions are important to us. We value our ability to have things. And we are very upset if someone take something that belongs to us. But I believe that the Lord was referring to more than just material possessions in this passage.
Certainly we all know that we have just obligations, whether it is paying taxes or compensating others for their goods and services. No one should expect to receive without any cost. But how much do any material things really belong to us, or to anyone else for that matter? My paycheck, for example, may be made payable to me, but already has been reduced because of taxes paid to the government. Once I deposit "my" money, most of it immediately goes out, because part of it has to go to the mortgage company, credit card bank, gas and electric company, etc. So how much of it is really "mine"?
And then we get to other non-material things. To whom does my loyalty belong? Is my heart mine, or have I pledged it to another? Certainly any parent will tell you that most of their time really belongs to their children. It is relatively easy to see when these material or immaterial things belong to another person or persons. But what about God? What belongs to God?
This is a question that is deserving of a lot of thought, since it can have a major impact not just on the here and now but on eternity. And I think that Lent is a perfect opportunity to consider this question. As we prepare to start the season tomorrow, I would like to propose that we try and use the time to ask ourselves just what does belong to God. And then to consider what we are going to do about it. It may mean that we have to adjust our use of our time. It may mean that we may have to redirect some of our resources. It may mean that we have to re-evaluate what we are doing with the talents God has given us. Any and all of these considerations will make excellent Lenten practices. Instead of just "giving up" things this Lent, how about if we try and give to God what belongs to God? It could just be a very important 6 weeks for us.