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:

One-dollar-bill

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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The Sermon On The Mount: Part Four – Matthew 6:19-34

**This post will is the forth post of an exciting series on the Sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, as translated in the English Standard Version of the Bible.  You can read the passage online by Clicking Here so that you can gain the most value and context for these posts.  Please subscribe to this blog to receive updates on new posts! You can read the whole series in order by Clicking Here**

Recap – We left off with an overall message of:  If we want to follow Jesus, we’re called to love, pray, and worship genuinely.  It’s all about the nature of our hearts; the motives behind our worship need to be pure.

In this next section in Matthew 6, verses 19-34, the overall theme is best summed up as: If we want to follow Jesus, we should know that earthly possessions do not matter as much as trusting the Lord in all of life’s circumstances.

God and Money – Matthew 6:19-24 

Money can consume us; whether we are in need or not.  We can spend so much time thinking about how we are going to pay the electric bill in a very hot or cold month, how we’re going to fill our tank up again, or how we’re going to advance further, financially, in our life time.

Jesus warns us how money can become an idol – where we may have a lot of treasure, but none of that matters when you pass on to the next life; your spiritual treasures are what matters.  So wich are you focused on?

Jesus said that the eye is the lamp of the body, so is your eye on God, or on money?  If it is on money, you will notice that money consumes your thoughts, and you are never really satisfied with what you have.  If God consumes your thoughts, though money is a natural part of life, it will not be the focus of your life.

Trusting God through observing nature – Matthew 6:25-34

Life seems simpler as an animal sometimes.  You wake up, search for food, build nests or dens, sleep, repeat.  Animals don’t have bills, they don’t have to buy clothing, or food; they just live. Is life hard for them? Yes – predators could get to them, and they have to survive the harsh winters and the hot summers.

For humans, its hard to say that God will provide for us sometimes because we know that some Christians die of starvation, some are homeless, and although these things happen, some of these people STILL are joyful.  Why?  Because they know that heaven is greater, that God is loving, and they let that hope carry them through, instead of letting their worries gain control over their tomorrows.

This passage seems to indicate that God knows and provides for our needs.  I am going to be honest and say that I have a hard time accepting the view that God provides for the needs of a Christian when the starvation and homelessness of Christians exist.  It would be easy for me to believe that God provides all of our needs because I have all of my needs…but what about those who don’t? Its difficult; its messy.  For now, I have to trust in the God who gave me the greatest gift of faith, and pray for clarification for the rest. If you have any thoughts on this, please leave a comment!