Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.
When we hear this saying of Jesus, our thoughts might turn immediately to religion and politics, or perhaps to taxes. But in reality this passage from Mark has nothing to do with those questions, at least not in the modern sense. It simply has to do with God. What Jesus is saying in his gentle way in this famous response to the Pharisees is that our imaginations are too small, even pathetic: that God is incomparable to anything, much less, anyone—any power. The choice is a false one, for God is not subject to that kind of choice. God is beyond all choices.
It is hard, if not impossible, to speak of God. We want to conceptualize God in some way, and so we come up with numbers: God is One, God is Three. The only God. God is infinite, omnipotent, ubiquitous, providential. God is good, God is love. None of these concepts is incorrect; they are just inadequate. For the human mind, our imagination, can only contain so much, deal with so much—a limitation rooted in our limited, finite experience as creatures on planet Earth.
For Jesus, God is not a concept or set of concepts; God is not something he imagines or of which he has an image; God is not one thing among others—the greatest thing ever, the Ultimate. Rather, God is the hidden heart of a human being’s deeply personal, mystical, living experience of being loved. God speaks to the heart of Jesus and sets it aflame. God is the reason Jesus gets up in the morning and looks at the sky in wonder. His experience of this God fixes his gaze on a world in which all human beings could be animated by this sense of God, thus transforming the human world into a reign of grace, the kingdom of God. Jesus yearns for a God-saturated world. And he prays, constantly, his whole being in communion with God.
Yes, Jesus prayed, in these words of the Psalmist: “Before the mountains were begotten and the earth and the world were brought forth, from everlasting to everlasting, you are God” (Psalm 90). Our time is limited, says the Psalmist, and after all the distractions and noise of life— the toil for survival, our political and religious arguments, even accomplishing good things—we return to dust.. For God is “all in all” (even in the dust), the only reality in whom we originally and finally “live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), even beyond the mortal horizon, in the Risen Life. And so every moment of life, every nanosecond, is filled with God’s glory. Our calling by God is to see this, to revel in it. As Jesus himself prayed: “Fill us at daybreak with your kindness, that we may shout for joy and gladness all our days.” For in the beginning, and in the end, and beyond the end, “you are God.”