Martin Robertson

Now and Then

The Betrayal

“To God” He answered “those things which are God’s,

and what is Caesar’s render unto Caesar,”

But did He not thereby, Himself being God’s

son, God Himself, defraud Himself?  Is God’s

a share only?  They thought by a trick question

to have Him on the horns.  It was big odds

against His twisting free.  But was it God’s

wit gave Him that smart answer?  He was Steward

of a vast trust, and a far-sighted steward

may have to sacrifice some bargains.  God’s

terms, His best friends admit, are long-term—Plato

no less than Paul, Buddha no less than Plato.

I am no follower of Paul or Plato,

of Buddha or Mahomet, God or gods.

Paul’s song of charity I love, in Plato

the passionate search.  Great spirits, Paul and Plato,

but the long hopes they hold and bid me seize are

not mine.  My soul cries (child) to stay up late—“Oh

don’t send me to bed yet—I want to play, to

read, finish this…  Can’t I wait up?”  The question

falls.  Plato, Paul, ask the (for me) wrong question,

find me no answer.  So much for Paul and Plato?

So much for me—an ineffective steward

myself, I still must be my own soul’s steward.

Reading the story of the unjust steward

I find myself a world away from Plato

and in a most strange world.  What is this steward

who wins such commendation, because as steward

he tried to cheat his master?  Were I God’s

(if I believed in God), were I His steward

would He have me use tricks on Him this steward

tried on his master?…  Render unto Caesar…

Perhaps there’s some thought links steward to Caesar

which glimpsed might both throw light on the praised steward

and make His answer to the priests’ spies’ question

more than a trick answer to a trick question.

Why do I feel that answer to that question

such a betrayal of His trust as Steward?

It was, when all is said, a cheating question.

The head He had them show Him was, no question,

a copy’s shadow in the terms of Plato.

Yes.  But, though by so answering their question

He fooled the spies and priests, the Christian’s question

“Should not my life, my actions, all be God’s?”

by this gets answered “No.  Not wholly God’s.

If Caesar give you arms, yours not to question

when he gives orders.  Render unto Caesar

your armed and ordered self, and cry Hail Caesar.”

That He did not say.  But by setting Caesar

over against God He allowed the question

to be reframed in terms of God and Caesar

as equal powers.  So Christians can make Caesar

their scapegoat.  Might we, though, construe the steward

(a clever thought) as double-crossing Caesar?

No.  The steward’s master is God, not Caesar.

From the good city bravely back old Plato

framed laws for shadow-men.  Does He (like Plato?)

hope that, though cheating Him, our serving Caesar

may yet bring Caesar back with us to God’s

service—what’s Caesar’s in the end be God’s?

“Only the worldly-wise can manage God’s

affairs.  Go down into the cave with Plato.

Make friends with Mammon, make Mammon your steward.”

But who serves whom?…  Well, there’s the jackpot question:

Will Caesar die in God or God in Caesar?