15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16So 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. 17Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ 18But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. 20Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ 21They 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.’ 22When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
First...I'm not preaching this Sunday.
It's Laity Sunday, and I celebrate the life, witness and ministry of the Laity in this service. I'm amazed how many times people think that I'll "take the Sunday off," and not be there because I'm not preaching. Often there is surprise that I'm present.
Where else would I be? If I'm not present for this Sunday, then I really don't believe in the church, do I?
Although I'm not preaching, there are a couple of thoughts that come to mind on this text. First, why does this text always seem to show up during "stewardship campaign" season? Seems to me that such association, even if unintentional by the lectionary selection committee, vitiates the power of the text and puts it in a nice little box. Jesus' answer to their question was of such power that they were left "amazed." So much so that they just "went away." Granted, they were trying to get him to blaspheme. To acknowledge a human who ruled demanding to be recognized as "divine" would be the ticket they thought.
Instead, though, he offers a deeper truth. Give to the emperor that which is his, and to God that which is God's.
And here's the "aha" of this reading...it is all God's.
The One Jesus called "Abba," has dominion over all that is. It's an interesting point of conversation in a sermonic moment. We, who are of the Protestant work ethic, who value possession of personal property, the sense that we work for what we get, therefore we are entitled to it. If I hear Jesus right, and taking from the heritage of Mr. Wesley, nothing is mine. It's been entrusted to me. Whether or not I'll steward it well is solely dependant upon my exercise of that other gift of God for the world...free will.
But make no mistake about it. There are expectations and leanings of God through Gospel people to exhibit stewardship for the sake of the "widowed and the orphaned."
My freedom is not without responsibility.
Never has been. Never will be.
Watching children grow up is a reminder of how life is. In the past year, I've watched my youngest, now 4, discover the word "mine." I'm amazed at how many things he thinks are "his." And lest you create chaos, you best not touch what's "his" without permission.
We're teaching him the discipline of sharing. And we've learned that sharing works only to the point that it doesn't threaten the balance of what's left. When that's in jeopardy..forget it, you're on your own, and you're not getting anything else that's "mine."
Seems like that's a trait that transends childhood too often, doesn't it? Could that be something of what Jesus was getting at?