When taxes point to God

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:

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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:

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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)

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Passionate Spirituality: A faith that keeps walking

I grew up in a Christian home, went to church every Sunday, attended Sunday school, youth group, and I accepted Christ at a very early age.  For years, it was Enough for me to simply be involved in the church, pray at meals, and wear “W.W.J.D” bracelets.

But over time, it wasn’t enough; it didn’t sustain me.

I started to realize that the faith that I had, though it was genuine, was based more on my upbringing and memorizing bible verses than it was based on my personal wrestling with the questions I had already been told the answers to.

In 11th grade, I started reading the bible for the first time on my own, and I started to pray more throughout my days.  I began to notice a thirst for knowing more about God that wasn’t there before, and I knew that I wanted to continually seek Him.

The story of life includes various seasons that bring both high hills of productivity, determination, and passionate interest, as well as low valleys of depression, doubt, and failure.

Oftentimes, we get so hung up on our imperfections that it stalls our progression of faith.  We think that God will puppet our lives according to how much we pray, how we “feel” about God at the moment, or how much we sin.  In thinking this way, we forget that God has called the imperfect to do his perfect Will since the days of Noah.   In thinking this way, we deny the full power of God’s Grace over our lives, and we assume that a God willing to die for the world won’t love us as much if we mess up just once.

Noah was a man God called to build the Ark, and once the flood waters subsided, Noah settled in with his family, grew a vineyard, and got drunk….Noah wasn’t perfect.  (Genesis 9:20-21 – NRSV)

Abraham was a man named Abram who did not seek God (as best we know) before God called him to be the start of the Nation of Israel.  Abraham did not Trust that God would give him a son through his own wife, so he slept with a servant….Abraham wasn’t perfect. (Genesis 16:1-2 – NRSV)

David was called to be the King of Israel, was described, by God, to be a man after God’s own heart. David committed adultery, and then sent the woman’s husband to the front lines of a battle…David Wasn’t perfect. (2 Samuel 11:2-15 – NRSV)

The Apostle Paul, before he was a believer, would hunt down followers of Jesus and persecute them.  After he became a believer and was called to be an Apostle, he still did something(s) that he did not wish to do…Paul wasn’t perfect. (1 Cor. 15:9, Romans 7:15-20  – NRSV)

So please, can we, myself included, move past the “I’m not good enough” mentality?  God sees us as Men and Women of God – we just have to follow Him.

Passionate Spirituality isn’t about doing all the right things all the time…its about having the desire to move forward, even when your life seems to be telling you to give up.   It is not about having faith that never doubts; but having a faith that seeks to grow from having those doubts.  Passionate Spirituality is a drive to know God more, love God more, love others more…all while going through our hills and valleys of bliss and despair.

So when we go to Church on Sundays, rejoice in knowing that God loves you, and you have the opportunity to join other believers to Worship and Know God more.

When you see your bible at home, do not see it as a scary book that is only for the “good” people, see it as God’s story of redemption.

When you pray at meals, in the morning, at night…Know that God loves you, and calls you to more than yourself – YOU are a part of His plan for the World.

Passionate Spirituality is a lifestyle centered around knowing God more.

If you want to grow more in your faith, but you do not know where to start – email lambtheology@gmail.com and I will see if I can help.  Or comment below!

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Discussion Questions:

Why do we go to Church?

What do you do in order to grow closer to God?

What book, chapter, or verse in the bible has been the most meaningful in your life? Why?

Faith of Our Fathers: Reflecting on the imprint of my Grandfather

As a boy, I remember going to sleep over at “Grandpop’s” house at their old stone house.  During the morning, I would watch some cartoons while Grammy Bauman made me some delicious eggs, and I always got to choose between “Grandpop’s” Yellow American Cheese, or “Grammy’s” White American Cheese.

During the day, I sometimes walked with Grandpop in his garden, and he would show me his attempts at growing brussel sprouts and carrots, and we’d walk through the more tried and true plants like tomatoes and corn – all while he wore his traditional outfit of jean overalls, a white button down shirt, and a straw hat.

In the evening, I’d get tired and go up to the spare bedroom where there was a bed waiting for me, and as I drifted off to sleep, I saw the dim glow of a desk lamp on grandpop’s desk as he read his bible and took notes just a few feet from my bed.

Grandpop was a man of great faith – always reading the bible in the evening, reading other books for Christian study, leading a Sunday school class every Sunday morning, and every day of the week he showed the Love and mercy of Christ to others.  Grandpop was a man who exemplified consistent Christian Character.

He and my Grammy Bauman raised 7 boys together in the Lord, and while I do not know the faith of all of my uncles, the ones that I do know of have a very deep faith, and a faith that keeps wanting to grow. When my father sits down at the dinner table and says his prayer for the family, and for the food, sometimes his voice has a slight tremble as he is speaking to God, and thanking Him for all of his and our family’s blessings.

My Dad is a man after my grandfather’s heart; he will bend over backwards to help people – especially those he loves.  He once drove up to visit my Aunt and Uncle in Canada just to help them out with things to do around their property and house.  During that week, he fell off the top of a large wood pile, and we were all worried about him.  During that week, he also went to an auction, and got me a $400 guitar for $50.00.   When he came home, he got out of the car and I went to hug him, and he said,  “Wait, let me get your guitar”, and I said,  “Dad, I’m just glad you are home safe”.

Today, I sit at my desk in my Church office, writing plans and lessons for the school year to come for my position in Youth and Young Adult Ministry, and I just think, “I wish Grandpop was here so I could talk to him…”.  In November, when I married the woman of my dreams, I really wanted Grandpop to be there; I wanted him to meet this wonderful godly woman that I get to spend the rest of my life with.

There are many times when I just want to talk to Grandpop.  But today marks 7 years since he passed away, and even as I write this, I get teary eyed.  Surviving Grandpop in our immediate family is my Dad who, together with my mom, raised his three boys in the Lord, and each one of us today has a deep love for God, and a deep love for people; just like Grandpop.

The Faith of our Fathers is a blessing.  I cannot express enough how fortunate I am to have received time, instruction, and conversations from my Grandpop.  I miss him so much, but his impression on me is deep and long-lasting.

May God watch over our family and yours, and may God show us the love and mercy that we can pass on to others. Amen. 

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