Taxes and Faith

DenarriIn today’s gospel we are witness to Jesus’ encounter with the authorities and their question about the payment of taxes. Certainly the question of taxes is as much about authority as any topic. And there is perhaps no thorny or inflammatory topic of conversation than taxes. One may easily assume it is with malice that Jesus is asked about the census tax payable to Rome. The empire exacted three types of taxes: a ground tax, which required that ten per cent of all grain and twenty per cent of all oil and wine production be given to Rome; an income tax, equivalent to one per cent of a person’s income; and a poll/census tax, which amounted to a denarius or a full day’s wage. To add insult to injury, the tax could be paid only in Roman coin, most of which contained an image and inscription considered blasphemous by many Jews: Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus Pontifex Maximus (“Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest”). Continue reading