Sermon: October 19, 2008

20 10 2008

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So 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. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They 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.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

 

 

                                                            Matthew 22:15–22

 

 

 

            I thought that we would start off different today.  So I have some riddles for you.  What do you call a kitten drinking lemonade – a sourpuss.  How about – why did King Kong climb to the top of the Empire State Building – he was too big for the elevator.  What do you call a zipper on a banana – a fruit fly.  OK.  I got one more for you.  What do lazy dogs do for fun – they chase parked cars.

            OK now before you come and take me away for finally having gone over the edge, there is a point to all of this.  You see the Pharisees in our story were giving Jesus a riddle of sorts.  They were trying to get him to make a mistake.  They ask Him a question that there is no way for Him to answer without getting into trouble.  They ask Him if it is permissible under Mosaic Law to pay taxes to Rome.  There is just no right answer to that question.  If he says no – don’t pay your taxes to Rome – the Roman soldiers will come and take Him away for preaching sedition – telling the people – in public – to disobey their government.  That’s treason – or something like that. 

            Now if on the other hand He says that they should go ahead and pay their taxes, well, the people aren’t going to be too happy with Him.  They hated Rome.  They hated having to pay their taxes to an occupying army.  They were looking for a Messiah.  They were looking for someone who would help them get rid of Rome – someone who would re-establish the Kingdom of David.

            The Pharisees thought that they finally had Jesus.  If He says, don’t pay your taxes the people will love the answer but the Roman Soldiers will come and take Him away and they will be rid of this Jesus.  If on the other hand He says, pay your taxes, the people will get angry and Jesus will immediately lose His popularity with the people and He will soon disappear.  It’s a win – win for the Pharisees.  Either way they get rid of this Jesus once and for all.

            But Jesus is too cool for their trick question.  What does He say?  He says give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.  Give to God the things that are God’s.  Cool answer.  I know what that means.  As far as being a citizen of this country, it means that I should pay my taxes.  I should obey all of the laws.  Do what my government tells me to do.  In short be a good, loyal and model citizen.  On the other hand, I should give to God what is God’s.  I should go to church.  Pray.  Study my Bible.  Give my tithe.  And be kind to women, children, and dogs.  That’s our understanding in this country of what we call Separation of Church and State.

            If we are honest.  That is how we have always understood this story.  But that – I don’t think – is what Jesus meant.  You see, I think that He answered their riddle with a riddle of His own.  Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and give to God the things that are God’s.  What is that are Caesar’s that we should be giving to him and what exactly are the things that are God’s that we should be giving to God.  And the understanding of His riddle is found, I think, in the answer to one simple question.  Exactly what is God’s – what exactly is it that we owe to God?  The answer is – everything.  I owe Him my allegiance.  I owe Him my loyalty.  I owe Him my obedience.  I owe Him all that I am and all that I hope to be.  I owe Him my Time.  I owe Him my talents.  I owe Him my treasures.  I am to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, with all of my soul, with all of my mind.  And if I do that, then I am to show my love for God by also loving every other person who inhabits this planet.

            I love my country by bringing who I am – who I am as a Christian – my faith in God – my values – my ethics – my morality – my love for God and my love for my fellow man to bear on everything that I am and do as a citizen.

            I love my job by bringing who I am – who I am as a Christian – my faith in God – my values – my ethics – my morality – my love for God and my love for my fellow man to work with me every day.

            I love my family by bringing who I am – who I am as Christian – my faith in God – my values – my ethics – my morality – my love for God and my love for my fellow man by bringing that home every day.

            I love this world by taking the Good News of Jesus Christ out into my world and showing my world how my Jesus speaks to the economic crisis that we are in – how my Jesus speaks to the issues of world peace and justice – how my Jesus speaks to my being a good loyal worker on the job – by being a good spouse who loves His children – by living out my vows.

            I believe in what I said last week.  What we have here – the Good News of Jesus – that message is important.  It can change lives.  It can change families.  It can change nations.  It is the one word that makes a difference.  And God has given us that word.  He has entrusted that word into our hands.  And He asks us to take it out with us – every where we go.  You want to change your world.  Take this Jesus that we have here out into that world.  You want to make your job better.  Take this Jesus with you to work every day.  You want to make marriage better.  Take this Jesus with you to your home today.  You want to stop road rage.  Take this Jesus into your car today.  You want to stop greed and dishonesty.  Take this Jesus with you today.  And share it. 

 

 

Amen!

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