Trinity 18a ” to God what is God’s”
Trinity 18 : Matthew 22: 15-22
Don’t you just hate trick questions? The sort that you know there’s never going to be a right answer to – someone is trying to catch you out whatever & however you answer.
The Pharisees are at it again with Jesus –and this time they’ve hooked up with the Herodians –
Now these two groups are not naturally allies, politically and religiously, pretty much the only thing they agree on is that they don’t like Jesus!
So the fact that the two factions are together is right at the start a warning..
And they give him a bit of buttering up – I don’t know about you but it doesn’t sound terribly sincere to me..
And then they ask their question “ is it lawful to pay taxes to the Emperor or not?”
A question they think will trap him, make him unpopular with one lot or the other for sure… bring him into the bad books of the Romans or the Synagogue..
So What will he say?
Many people underestimate those around them. They think they can delude them somehow, maybe as much as they are deluding themselves..
But Jesus sees right through these manipulators who are trying to catch him out –
You hypocrites, he says, why are you trying to trick me?
Straight back at them, and while they’re reeling from the shock ( though why they weren’t used to Jesus by now I don’t know)
He says to them show me the coin used for the tax – in other words, a Roman coin
This coin was the legal tender under Roman rule – it would have had a head of the Emperor on it – and some reference to the belief that he was Divine – so truly devout Jews would not use it as it fell into the category of idolatory.
Jesus is putting his questioners on to the back foot straight away by asking them for a coin – they had one – he didn’t.
They knew that he knew that Jewish law forbade such an image.
And he asks them to identify the name, Caesar , and the title –often “ Son of God”
And he says Give to the Emperor what is the Emperor and to God what is God’s
It’s not as simple as it sounds –
Jesus isn’t advocating, I don’t think, some kind of separation of “Church & state” as it were, this would have been a concept alien to that time , apart from anything else,
Instead Jesus is saying something much more all encompassing.
Much more profound than a sort of “ separate out the bits of your life and do them both right”
He’s established already that these critics deal in this Roman coinage –
They already pay, reluctantly or otherwise, their secular dues – they’ve paid the emperor, now what are they also paying God?
Jesus hasn’t uttered two separate but equal statements –it’s not an equation that you can balance out
Instead he is reminding them that everything is God’s
Even what they pay the state, not just what’s left over, not the extra, the loose change for the money box in the temple – but everything.
Our lives aren’t separated off into “the stuff that Gods not bothered with” and “ the stuff God is bothered with”
“All things come from you, and of your own do we give you”
is a line we say so often in our offertory prayers – but what does it mean?
How would it look if we involved God in our shopping? Is he bothered if we shop at Asda or Morrisons, or the farm shops? What do the choices we make about our food and our clothes look like if we’re including God in them?
What about our banking? Our saving or our borrowing?
Do faith and money mix?
If we really believe that God is God of everything, and all things come from him, then yes they have to.
It’s not about what we do with what’s left over when the tax and the mortgage or the rent is paid, and the food is bought and the heating bills paid
It’s about all those things too. It’s about doing what God is asking us to do with all those aspects of our lives , living right, making the right choices.
I can’t tell you what those choices are –
I’m not your ethical financial advisor ( you’ll be pleased to know) I’m not the food miles police or the clothes judge –
Though I do think fair trade is the place to start, and I think we have to consider who, how and in what way our clothes are made,
But really the point is that God is God of everything,
There’s not one bit of our lives that God should not be involved in –
I don’t mean that we stand in the supermarket and pray about which toothpaste to buy, God gave us commonsense too.
But too often we’ve dismissed whole sections of our lives, our world, money in particular, as being “ the Things of Caesar” and decided that we don’t need to bother God about them.
When in fact the opposite is indeed the case.
All we have is Gods, – so what are we doing with it?
This passage really creates more questions than it answers.
And that’s Ok, because they are questions we need to ask of God.
what should I be giving, where should I be investing, or borrowing from? What should I be spending my money on?
Bringing these questions to him is part of our response to his love, his great giving to us. It’s part of our worship if you like. As is our response to his answers!!
Questions like this are not optional extras
They are part of God’s transforming work in us.
Paul talks of how the message of the gospel came to the Thessalonians not in word only but in power and in the Holy Spirit.
They were changed not just in what they said, but in what they did, how they acted.
Our challenge is to give to God all of us, every aspect of our lives, to be transformed by his power in Jesus, to have those questions answered and to act on what we hear – as we remember that everything we have comes from him.