Today’s Gospel reading features one of Jesus’ more famous sayings. The religious leaders ask Jesus if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar and support the force that is occupying Israel. There is no right answer. If Jesus says yes, pay your taxes, he’s breaking religious law by supporting the unwanted regime. If he says no, don’t pay taxes, he’s breaking Roman law. It’s a trap, and Jesus knows it."Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?” Jesus asks. “Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” They handed him the Roman coin. “He said to them, ‘Whose image is this and whose inscription?’ They replied, ‘Caesar's.’ At that he said to them, ‘Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.’"Now, I’ve always admired the cleverness of Jesus’ response to this “test.” He seems to effortlessly expose the hypocrisy of those asking the question. And that’s about all this passage has meant to me — see Jesus skillfully deflect a disingenuous attempt to embarrass him at best, or get him arrested at worst. This time, though, I find myself asking just what was Jesus trying to say or accomplish? Was it just a matter of elegant wordplay? Maybe instead he wants his listeners, and you and me, to think about exactly what it means to give “to God what belongs to God.” If they know what belongs to Caesar because his image is imprinted on the coin, maybe we should ask where God’s image is imprinted.Maybe Jesus is trying to tell us yet again that we would be far happier and freer if we stopped trying to act like we truly own anything at all, or truly control our own lives and futures, and allow God to continue to express his love and compassion through us.The answer, of course, is that every one of us is created in God’s image. What belongs to God, the logic follows, is our lives, and everything that embodies and expresses God’s love. Maybe Jesus is trying to tell us yet again that we would be far happier and freer if we stopped trying to act like we truly own anything at all, or truly control our own lives and futures, and allow God to continue to express his love and compassion through us.I remember an ad that ran a few years ago that featured a young man getting his first job. He proudly opens his first paycheck only to be disappointed how little money he actually received. “Who’s FICA?” he asked, despondently.Unless you are a CPA, taxes are no one’s favorite subject. Taxes are complicated, intimidating and for many people very expensive. And if you’re paying attention to our political climate of the moment, taxes tend to bring up this issue of what belongs to whom. “I don’t want my tax dollars paying for x, y or z,” we hear over and over again. Well, maybe we should be just as concerned about how our spiritual capital is spent. Maybe God is trying to tell us not to squander his holy image on the silly, the petty and the fruitless. God call us to spend our lives as we were created to do, and to enjoy the love and freedom that this will bring.Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected].