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“Who owns my body?”

The scribes and the chief priests sought [in Jerusalem] to lay hands on him [Jesus of Nazareth c. AD 30] at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent. Luke 20: 19-26
A new year is good time for taking stock, for assessing the things that surround us and shape our lives. What constantly surrounds me? What is shaping my life – often without me realizing it? 

In the final few days before his death by crucifixion (and his rising again) Jesus brought to the attention of those around him all of these major basic factors. Another of them (see the previous three Infos) is part and parcel of the above incident recorded by Luke, the historian, writing around AD 62. What fourth basic but highly influential factor in people’s lives is identified in this incident?

I no longer have a belly button. Mine was removed during a surgical procedure some years ago. I wasn’t asked whether I wanted it or not. It was disposed of, presumably, in the hospital incinerator. Did I own it?


'You made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’ (Augustine of Hippo, theologian, 354-430 AD)
For centuries the basic understanding was that the only “possessor” of human bodies was the earth. After all, in the first book of the Christian (and Jewish) Bible, the LORD God says “dust you are and to dust you will return”. A few years ago at interments one would always hear the words, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.

In an American court case in 1990 it was decided that, whilst a person did not own his own body, another person may generate or develop proprietary rights in another’s body parts. The case concerned unusual cells from a Mr Moore which were utilized by researchers at the University of California and developed into a cell line which sold for $15 million. 

That Court rulling has left the law in an unusual position: I do not have a property right in my own body, but another person has the ability to generate a property right in products from my body.

Did you know that, in law, you don’t own your own body? The fourth basic instinct which governs all of us is that we do – each of us – own our own bodies. In fact, we’re totally convinced of that and live our lives on that assumption.

Interestingly also, who, in your view, would owns your body (and mind and everything) if it isn’t you? Could it be your parents? After all, your father contributed semen which, when added to a microscopic egg produced by your mother, made the “you”. Do they not have ownership of what they made? 

Take a look now at the incident in bold above. The scribes (lawyer-civil-servants) and chief priests (religious authorities) in AD 30 Jerusalem wanted to entrap Jesus into stating that the people were not required to pay taxes to the Romans. If he did so he would be arrested and imprisoned (or worse).

Jesus asks that a Roman silver coin be brought to him. He asks whose portrait is etched into the silver. He asks whose name is inscribed on the silver coin. The answer in both cases was “Caesar”. “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

In effect, the second part of Jesus’ instruction to the scribes and chief priests is clear. They must, “Render to God the things on which the image of God is inscribed and on which the name of God is written.”


‘I am greater than the stars, because I know that they are up there, and they do not know that I am down here.’ (William Temple, teacher and preacher, 1881-1944)
What are those things? Neither your consciousness of your own existence nor your morality exists in any of the animals. Might these not reflect and, to a degree, reproduce the LORD God? And what about your “life” – the living part of you? That living part of you has significant meaning: it means that, like the LORD God, you now “are”?
Sinner Syvret

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