Context: Ever since January, I have attempted to use the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) as a basis for my youth lessons, and for any preaching that I was asked to do during that time. The RCL is a set list of scripture passages that is used by churches throughout the world as a basis for their messages on Sunday mornings. I liked the idea because I like the “bigger picture” that it paints; I have always liked the idea of learning, saying, and doing things with Christians throughout the world, and throughout time. I record most of these messages, and I put them out as a Podcast, which you can listen to by subscribing to the “Uncommon Lectionary Podcast” on your favorite podcast application, or by clicking here. The following is one of those lessons put into “blog” form.
Let’s read the following passage together:
Matthew 22:15-22 – Common English Bible (CEB)
15 Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. 16 They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. 17 So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
18 Knowing their evil motives, Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked.
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” 22 When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed.
A couple things to point out:
- The Pharisees were strict adherents to the law of Moses, and they weren’t too keen on being ruled by the Romans who did not worship their God and charged high taxes.
- The Supporters of Herod, called Herodians, were Jewish people who thought that being ruled by Rome wasn’t as bad as others thought, and they actively supported their local ruler (like a Governor) named Herod.
- They went together to Jesus as two opposing opinions seeking to trap Jesus. If he responds that people should pay their taxes, the Pharisees write him off as a heretic and his ministry is affected drastically. If he responds that people should not pay their taxes, Jesus may be reported by the Herodians and be killed before his time.
And how does Jesus respond?
The empty-pocket celebrity asks to see a Denarion (a coin that equals a day’s wage) because he has none of his own.
He examines the coin and asks: “Who’s face is on here?”. The people respond that is it Caesar, and so Christ responds, “Okay, so give what is Caesar’s what is his, and give to God what is his”.
The people, confused and frustrated, walk away.
I have a hunch that Jesus responded this way to point out at least two things:
1) God is bigger than money, and money shouldn’t be something that distracts you from God (Speaking to the Pharisees).
2) God is greater and more powerful than any government on earth, even ones that demand complete allegiance from its citizens (Speaking to the Herodians).
And both of these two points relate to trusting in God: His rule, His provision, His truth.
Let’s take it a bit closer to home. Let’s look at our US Dollar – think of a few things that stick out:
We have George Washington’s face, 1, ONE, an odd Pyramid, the eagle, and of course we have “In God We Trust” written on our currency.
What does it mean to trust God?
What does it mean to trust and honor God with our money?
This dollar could be used for so many things that are not what we are called to do as Christians. It could be used to buy drugs, buy CDs that degrade other people, and at a government level, it could be used to buy bombs and missiles, with no guarantee that those bombs would only kill “Bad people”.
So, while a dollar bill can never truly say “In God we trust” on it without being slightly ironic, you can, as individual Christians.
We trust in God when we use our dollars to help others who are needy, to go towards a church’s or other organization’s good deeds, or even to buy Christmas gifts for loved ones.
We trust in God when we start to see God as being more important than Money.
We trust in God we don’t let the pressures of this world…taxes, tension, war, heartache…cripple, or get in the way of, our belief in God. Sometimes, it may not make sense…but in those times, we still have to trust God. Even in paying taxes, we are reminded that we, though we are citizens of our nation, are ultimately citizens of God.
So, the next time you see a Dollar, ask yourself….am I trusting in God? Or something else…
“There’s life after death…and taxes…” – Relient K (Link)