Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World

That's What He Said, Jesus' Tax Code

October 19, 2020 Pastor Dave Tucker Season 4 Episode 19
Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World
That's What He Said, Jesus' Tax Code
Chapters
Spiritual Living in a Chaotic World
That's What He Said, Jesus' Tax Code
Oct 19, 2020 Season 4 Episode 19
Pastor Dave Tucker

According to Jesus, the only thing that Caesar could lay claim to was the metal object that bore his likeness. And the things that God can lay claim to are the things that bear God’s likeness!

Based on Matthew 22:15-22
Originally preached October 18, 2020 
at St. Timothy Cumberland Presbyterian Church

Show Notes Transcript

According to Jesus, the only thing that Caesar could lay claim to was the metal object that bore his likeness. And the things that God can lay claim to are the things that bear God’s likeness!

Based on Matthew 22:15-22
Originally preached October 18, 2020 
at St. Timothy Cumberland Presbyterian Church

THAT'S WHAT HE SAID, SHENANIGANS PT.1, JESUS' TAX CODE
MATTHEW 22:15-22
         
          It all started with a coin… A cold hard piece of metal stamped with the likeness of a man… not unlike our coins today. Only, the coin presented to Jesus on that day bore the likeness of a dictator. His image represented conquest and a form of enslavement. Every time the Jewish people… God’s chosen, looked at their coins, they were reminded of how they were not free people. Inscribed on the coin was Tiberius Caesar, divine son of Augustus, high priest. At that time, within Jesus’ community, the words spoke both of oppression and of blasphemy.

         The Jews loved a good debate. They would sit in the temples and at the gates of their cities discussing, dialoging, perhaps getting a little loud as ideas and concepts were bantered about. But this was different. With coin in hand the Pharisees and Herodians sought to entrap Jesus with a question that had a no win answer… What we are about to study this morning is how Jesus transforms this trap into a theological question. Jesus used a coin, not unlike what I am holding in my hand, to instead disclose something about those asking the question — and about us. After all, It’s What He Said.

Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to illuminate today’s lesson for us this morning: (Prayer) 

Our scripture reading for today is found in Matthew 22:15-22

Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him [Jesus] in what he said. 16 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. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 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.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

         The coin I hold in my hand is a United States Quarter. As we examine the quarter, we see a couple things…. Things that are vastly different than what the ancient Jews would have seen on their coins during Roman occupation. On the “Heads” side we see the likeness of George Washington, our first president. To the right we see engraved, “In God We Trust,” which gives us an understanding of who we are as an American people. To the right of the coin we read, “LIBERTY.” That word also means a lot to us as Americans. It means that we are a free people. Yet, I have to ask, how many people place their trust more in this coin and what it represents than in God. And I wonder about this liberty, are all people in this country truly free? There are people right here in our community of Bedford Texas who are hungry, scared, and barely scraping by… There are people right outside these doors who are wondering which bill collector will be calling next and are they going to be losing their car, or home, or both!

         With the coin which represented Roman oppression, Jesus’ adversaries knew that they had Him cornered. If Jesus had answered that it was lawful to pay the tax, he might be in good with the Roman regime, but would be in trouble with the religious establishment. If Jesus had responded that it was not lawful to pay taxes, He would have been seen as a threat to Rome and would be tried and put to death. Such a large, complex situation brought about by such a small piece of metal. 

         Jesus’ response takes the discussion away from this tiny piece of metal into a larger narrative. “Whose image is on the coin? Caesar? Then give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God that which is God’s.” Suddenly this isn’t about a coin anymore… neither is it about what the coin represents. Jesus is making a statement about Caesar’s authority and God’s authority. According to Jesus, the only thing that Caesar could lay claim to was the metal object that bore his likeness. And the things that God can lay claim to are the things that bear God’s likeness! Let me say that again! According to Jesus, the only thing that Caesar could lay claim to was the metal object that bore his likeness. And the things that God can lay claim to are the things that bear God’s likeness! [pause] 

         And “God said ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in His image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:26-28.) “Can a woman forget her nursing child? … Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” (Isa. 49:15–16) We belong to God, created in God’s image. God’s tenderness and love is beyond our human comprehension. The love of God is our currency, and our baptism validates that currency.

         And yet, I want us to look again at this coin… this piece of metal that we place so much earthly value on. It still spends. Cumulatively, it can purchase a lot of nice things. Yet, all the beautiful things that we purchase are only temporal. From dust we were created and to dust we shall return. One day God will call each of us home… Our quest for wealth and riches will be for naught…. As a matter of fact, in heaven, God calls our gold currency pavement! I want to implore each and every one of you listening to my voice either here in the sanctuary or from the comfort of your own home, to rethink our attitude toward money. With the understanding that we belong to God, also comes the understanding that nothing we call ours is really ours. The home we live in, the cars we drive, our families… ALL BELONG TO GOD. 

What then should we do with our money? St. Francis of Assisi was born into wealth. He had an encounter with God and he gave all his money away and entered into a monastery without a stitch of clothing on his body! I am not saying that we should give all our money away and live out our lives in poverty… what I am asking, however is for us to think about is what our attitudes are toward money? Is the ten percent we give enough? Are we missing out on blessings because of our quest to amass more and more earthly goods?  These are deep questions that we each, including myself need to ask ourselves.

         You see, Jesus is not interested in our little pieces of metal… it matters NOT who or what is inscribed on it! Jesus just loves! And all he asks in return is our undying love and devotion to Him and to all who have been created in God’s image. True, the image can sometimes be difficult to recognize. When we look at each other, or in the mirror, we tend to see the inscriptions that our business with the world has left on us: you are what you look like, what you have, what you wear, what you do, the company you keep. Nevertheless, underneath all those inscriptions is a much deeper mark: the kiss of light in the eyes, the watery sign of a cross made once upon a time on the forehead, the image of all those children in the arms of their mothers, and the little ember of resolve to remember them. All those faces are a part of your face, when you begin to see the image that God sees, the image engraved in the palm of the hand of the God who, in Jesus, stands behind us with full faith and credit. [Richard E Spalding, Feasting on the Word]

AMEN