Then He says to them, give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
The Pharisees come up and ask, do we have to pay tax? Unfortunately/fortunately Jesus says yes, you do have to pay tax so here’s a reminder to do your tax return if you haven’t yet. Our government provides us with maintained roads, protects us from other governments, prints our money, and for all their flaws we still live in relative peace and safety. For that we give them back some of the money they printed for us. Now, we don’t have Caesar Tiberius on the back of our coins, it’s the image of Queen Elizabeth; and as a democracy, the most important building for the government is on the $5 so even the poorest might know who governs them. Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
But what does Jesus mean by that second bit? Give to God what is God’s? When He picked up that coin, whose image was on it? Caesar’s. Then where is God’s image? All the way back at the very beginning, God said, let us make humans in our own image (Genesis 1:26). Both a subtle nod to the Trinity, and an answer to our question. Humans are made in the image of God, every one of us. When you see another human, they are an image or icon of God. Then again, in Paul’s letters the Holy Spirit tells us that Jesus Himself is the icon or image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15). And then we, as Christians, are of course being united with Christ, conformed to the image of God’s Son, as we heard earlier this year (Romans 8:29). So, we are the image of God from creation, and more so as Christians being brought into the perfect image of God in Christ. Give to God what is God’s, give to Him yourself, give to Him Christ, and with Christ be given to God.
But what does it mean to give yourself to God? Practically what does giving your life back to the one who gave it look like? Specifically to you, I may not be able to say, yet generally we know it is to keep the Ten Commandments, trust and rely only on God Almighty who loves you, use His name well, keep holy His day and His Word, honour your parents and those in authority, love each other as Christ first loved you. To do this in every part of our lives is difficult, yet it’s what the Holy Spirit is calling you to, that in everything you do, say and think it is to the glory of God with thanksgiving, or more simply in everything, love God and love those around you (John 14:). But it’s not easy, and we need help. Thank God for His great and wonderful mercy in giving you the Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide you, and for taking your guilt, shame and sin onto the cross and killing them; some of the many wonderful gifts He gives in Baptism, absolution and Holy Communion. And He has asked us to use His name, the name He’s given to you, and pray to Him for that help: Your name be kept holy, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, in my life today, that my life is for you Heavenly Father, giving back to God what is God’s. God serves you, now you can serve Christ. Remember God’s promises to you, and if you need a reminder of what giving back to God looks like, we can all take the advice of our small catechism and speak God’s Word of the Ten Commandments and pray God’s Word of the Lord’s prayer everyday, and try not to forget it after 10min.
So give taxes, respect and anything else owed to the Government to the government; and give to God the things that are His; your life and all He has first given to you. Give yourself to Him, give yourself to Christ and with Christ be given to God. Recognise what God has first given you, life, forgiveness, separation from sin, love, and live it in honour of His grace, to the benefit of those around us.
The strange days don’t let up, do they? Eight months afraid of a pandemic and frustrated with government restrictions. As a pastor out here, some of it does seem confusing to say the least. And yet last Sunday we read the words of Jesus, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”
Some people were trying to get Jesus in trouble with the government and asked if we need to pay taxes. Jesus asked for a coin. “Whose face is on it?” “Caesar’s.” Whose face is on our coins? Queen Elizabeth, but parliament house is on our $5 note and I’m pretty sure that’s where the taxes really go. So, if the government gives us our money, gives us roads, utilities, protection, then Jesus says to give back what they ask in return. That’s a reminded to do your tax return if you have forgotten.
But money and infrastructure isn’t all we have been given. You’ve been given life by God through your parents, taught by teachers, helped by friends and family. Jesus doesn’t want you to be in debt, but more so He doesn’t want you to forget the good things you have been given; to treasure your morning coffee, those who love you, the rain and sun for the crops, and, for those to whom God has promised, separation from sin, shame and guilt, and new everlasting life with Him. To thank the government for the good that they do do, respecting them for it. And to recognise Jesus as above the government, to thank God for every good He gives in our lives, even life itself.
And another gift, the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, now and to life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Joseph Graham.