A sermon preached at Andrews Presbyterian Church on Sunday, February 28, 2016.
WHAT DO WE GIVE TO GOD?
I bet you think this sermon is going to be about money! After all, this this text is often one used when preaching about giving, or stewardship. And sermons about money are uncomfortable at best.
|Jerry Falwell (google images)|
When I was in college at Tech, for a while I attended University Baptist Church. They had a worship specifically for students, which I had never experienced before. I really enjoyed it, though there were some things that made me uncomfortable. My parents came for Parent’s Weekend, late in the fall, and went to church with me on Sunday morning. Although I didn’t know it ahead of time, it happened to be stewardship Sunday, and the preacher preached a hellfire and brimstone sermon about how we should give to the church and therefore, to God.
Later that day, my mom remarked that I was lucky that my dad hadn’t gotten up and walked out. Apparently, he’s not real fond of that kind of teaching. We’ve never discussed it, but that made an impression on me, even at that young age.
Money is hard to talk about in church; in fact, it’s one of just a few subjects that we’re not supposed to talk about in church – money, sex, politics, and ???? Why are they so hard to talk about? They’re very personal, we say. The thing is, these things are really part of our everyday life, and therefore should be talked about. Jesus didn’t shy away from talking about these subjects. We’re just uncomfortable hearing what he has to say.
This sermon is about money, but only in the broadest sense. It begins with the Pharisees and Herodians try to trip him up. The Pharisees were religious leaders who were resentful of the Romans, and King Herod, though the didn’t actively opposed Herod. The Herodians were those Jews who supported King Herod. They were strange bedfellows, but they conspired to put Jesus in a bind.
They ask him whether they should pay the imperial tax to Caesar. The imperial tax was one of many taxes. However, it was a bit different in that it was a tax on those who were subject to Rome – those who were oppressed by the Romans! The tax was supposed to be used for the upkeep and rebuilding of the Temple which had been destroyed, but instead was used for the upkeep of the pagan temple. It was an affront to Jews. Only those who had renounced Judaism could collect the tax for the Romans. Now you understand why tax collectors were so despised. In addition, the coin of the realm had the image of Caesar on it, the image of the god Caesar, which was considered idolatry.
They butter up Jesus, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” They’re really asking who it is that ultimately receives Jesus’ loyalty – Caesar or God.
They think they’ve caught Jesus in a double bind. There is no way satisfactory way to answer the question as they’ve asked it. If Jesus says yes, he is consenting to the use of a coin bearing the image of an idol, and declaring his loyalty to Caesar. If he says no, he is committing sedition – and the Roman authorities could arrest him for rejecting Roman authority even as he claims God. What will Jesus do?
Jesus knows what they are up to, and beats them at their own game. Rather than answer directly, he asks for a coin. You know that he asks whose image is on it, and when they reply “Caesar’s,” he tells them to give Caesar what is his. That coin which bears Caesar’s image, give it back to him. He wants it, he can have it.
BUT he says, give God what is God’s, as well.
Give Caesar that which is made in his image, and give God what is made in his image – yourself. In the first chapter of Genesis it says,
“So God created humankind in his image, in theimage of God he created
them; male and female he created them.”
We are created in the image of God; therefore, we must give to God our very selves.
So while this isn’t a sermon about money, it is a sermon about stewardship. Are you confused? Many of us think of money when we hear the word stewardship. But listen to what it means to be a steward. A steward is:
|Glenwood Live Oaks (Google images)|