15Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.16So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
Who or What do you worship? A homily for Sunday October 22, 2017 by Mother Beth
In the gospel reading for today, the church leaders try to trap Jesus by asking a question about taxes. After some initial flattery – “we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality”, they ask, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”
They are aware that if he says that people should not pay taxes then they can report him to the authorities and he will be arrested for inciting rebellion. If he says that they should pay taxes then he is agreeing with the corrupt system that has been imposed upon the people.
So Jesus challenges them to produce a coin. Note that he does not have a coin but he asks one of them to produce a coin which they do.
The coins at that time had the image of Caesar on them (as ours have the image of a President) and under the image of Caesar were the words “son of God” because the role of Caesar was treated as being divine or godly.
This is important because it would be against Jewish law to possess something with a graven image – that is an idol. So when they quickly produce a denarius, Jesus has in effect revealed something about these leaders, these Pharisees as they reveal that they carry around this graven image.
But Jesus responds – whose image is on the coin? And they answer “Caesar’s” and Jesus responds “give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” And while this seems like a simple and straight forward answer, I would like to suggest that it is not.
I have often thought that we are in a sense caught between two worlds. We live in a world we can see for a God that we cannot see. It is all too easy to begin to chase after the things of this world the things that we can see, and handle and manage and yet we are called to worship God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
I believe this is what Jesus is alluding to here in this gospel passage. There are things in this world – civic obligations like taxes – that require that we participate in the affairs of this world and yet as I mentioned last week we say, “All things come of thee O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee”. Do we sing this with all sincerity recognizing that all things come from God and that we give back to him out of the abundance that he has bestowed upon us. Nothing that we have is really our own but given to us on loan from God with the intent that it be invested wisely to create life and love in the community.
Jesus invites us — actually, demands of us — that we be thinking regularly and relentlessly about how all of our decisions — what we buy, who we vote for, how we spend our time — should be shaped by the confession that, indeed, the whole world is God’s and everything in it — including us! How does our faith shape our economic decisions — our buying, saving, giving, and the rest?”
Whatever we render unto Caesar, or to the retirement fund, or to the offering basket at church, we can never afford to forget this: we belong entirely to God. We may divide our budget, but we must never divide our allegiance. The coin of our realm bears the image of the President, but each of us bears another image. Our King said: “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.” We must never forget to render unto God the things that are God’s.
Throughout my many moves over the last years, in going through possessions, purging and donating – I realize that there are many decisions to be made. What do we give away? Do we give away only what we no longer need or use? Do we give away only what we have used up – clothes and items that we cannot wear or use anymore? Does our giving (and I am not now speaking about giving to the church) reflect the God who created us? Are we generous as he is generous or are we grumbling and complaining all the way to the donation box.
How does what we spend our money on reflect the God whom we profess to serve? The God who created us and fashioned us in his own image?
Today there is some attention placed on being a good consumer and knowing where things come from and how they are made.
When I was a child the focus in my household was on buying North American made products, Made in Canada or Made in the United States – I was taught to look at labels and that that was a factor in whether or not something would be purchased. And that was the beginning of thinking about how my life and what I consume has an impact on the bigger picture.
Today we would do well to become informed consumers – we hear much about buying local which supports the local economy and local farmers but also helps to reduce the carbon footprint created by importing and exporting food long distances. What does this have to do with being stamped with the imprint of God? Our desire to faithfully live out complete and integrated lives of faith. If how we spend money indicates what we value, then we need to be mindful of what economy or lifestyle or kingdom we are supporting.
Matthew 6:20-21 says “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6
Where is our treasure? What do we value? These are indicators of what we truly believe and who we trust. Are we investing in faithful and integrity driven companies and communities wherever possible or are we contributing to the destruction and undoing of others?
Do our decisions and our lifestyles reveal our commitment to love of God and love of neighbor or do our choices reveal selfish and destructive motives?
As we live in this world and go about the day to day business of life, while we have taxes to pay and government officials to elect, let us not forget that it is God whom we love, serve and worship and may God make us faithful to pray for our leaders and invest our time, talent and treasure into those things that will reveal faithfully our love of God and of neighbor.
II Corinthians 9:7 You should each give, then, as you have decided, not with regret or out of a sense of duty; for God loves the one who gives gladly.
Last week we heard that when Moses went up on the mountain to meet with God he was gone for 40 days and 40 nights and quickly the people began to seek out another god. They encouraged Aaron to help them build an idol – the golden calf – they gave their coins and jewellery to be melted down. In effect they bought themselves something to worship.
If we feel that God has been silent for a time, how quick are we to run and fashion for ourselves another god? How often do we doubt the path we are on and run to find another way?
When we were in the process of immigrating here from Canada…waiting and waiting to hear if all the paperwork was ready and if Homeland security would give us the green light. As sure as we were that we were supposed to come = that God had opened a door for us… it was not long before we considered bailing on the whole plan and buying a new home in Canada. Faith involves patience. How do our decisions line up with what we say we believe about God? Are we fully committed to following God’s plan and serving him with our whole lives? Who or what do we worship?
May God give each of us the faith and the confidence to go where he sends us and to be faithful to give when and where he tells us to give that all that we do and say will reveal the truth about whose kingdom we serve. Amen.