It’s a definite setup. The religious authorities ask a seemingly simple question to Jesus, inquiring if it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar (Matthew 22:15-21). Jesus could be in trouble either way he answers the question. If he says paying taxes to Caesar is wrong, he is in trouble with the government. If he says paying taxes is right, he is in trouble with the Jewish people who hate the government for occupying their land.
So what does Jesus do? He refuses to take sides and says to give to the government what is due to the government and give to God what is due to God. Jesus is telling us to be accountable to God and to others. Be accountable in your worldly life and in your spiritual life. Do not pit one against the other.
The fact is, our lives of faith are lived with God in the real world. We do not live in some kind of bubble, isolating our faith lives from what is going on in the everyday world. In all of it, we are to be accountable to God and to each other.
Our accountability encompasses being accountable to the people that we know. These include our families, friends, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, parishioners, business and professional relationships and more. We are also accountable to people that we do not personally know. Our behaviors and decisions have an effect on people that we have never met. Accountability means keeping in mind the long range effects of our actions on others.
As people of faith, our accountability is ultimately rooted in our relationship with God. All that we have and all that we are belongs to God. We do not live in this world apart from God who created us and who is part of all of it. Accountability to God means daily discernment with God’s help before making decisions. It means regularly reflecting on what we have said and done to help us stay centered on our relationship with God.
We live with God and each other. Accountability to both is truly right and just.