Saturday, March 15, 2008

God and Caesar

I am always amazed at how up-to-date the Bible is. Recently, while studying through the Gospel of Luke, I came to the section in chapter 20 where the religious elite of Jerusalem were trying to trap Jesus in a chargeable offense. They even sent spies who pretended to be righteous to ask Him trick questions.

One of the questions was about whether it was right for a pious, law-following Jew to pay the required tax to the Roman government ... to Caesar. And you all know how Jesus "out-clevered" them by showing that they were already in league with Rome since they all carried Roman coins in their pockets, and used the exchange system to make a profit. (Turns out, they charged folks high fees to "exchange" Roman and Greek coins for the Temple half-shekel used to pay for Temple sacrificial items and the Temple tax.) While appearing to be against the Roman occupation of Palestine, these hypocrites were actually making bank out of the situation.

But Jesus, knowing their deceitful plan, silences them with the magisterial statement: "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God." And we've all heard what that means: we owe certain attitudes and actions - like paying taxes - to the government, and we owe certain attitudes and actions to God as well.

To the government, we owe obedience, and honor, and intentional service to make our community better, and - I believe - informed participation in the political system. As Christ-followers, we ought to be the best citizens.

To God we owe authentic worship and service, and we spend our lives becoming more and more deeply in love with God through Jesus Christ our Savior. These are things we all know.

But ... have you ever thought about the opportunity you may one day have to "give to God what used to be Caesar's"? Have you ever thought about how great it would be if the government (Caesar) came up with a way to fund the work of God, and they decided to do it through you and me?

Well, in my mind, that is exactly what will happen this May, '07. Most of us are going to get a check for $600 or $1200 or more from the government. Now, while I am sure we could all find a way to spend it, in reality it is money we never expected, and most of us don't really, really need. If the government had not decided to give us some of our money back, we all would have gone on with our lives and none of us would have awakened one morning to say "how come the Congress isn't giving me $600 this month?" So, I have a great idea!

Here's my idea: Take what Caesar gives you and give it to God. Give your money away, to your church, or to some organization that is truly engaged in Gospel work. Just think of yourselves as the middle man through which Caesar is "giving back to God what is actually His!"

Now I know some of you are deeply in debt, and perhaps you need to take that money and pay off some bills, or at least pay then down. My fear though, is that those who should use it to pay off debt will use it to buy more stuff they don't need, or even worse, use it as a down payment on that entertainment system they don't need, and can't afford! So, just give it away! And if you can't give it all, give half.

We've decided at our house that we're giving it all to the work of the Kingdom at Northpoint (our congregation). And we can hardly wait to take advantage of this "once in a life time opportunity." Imagine, Caesar giving to God what is actually His, and letting me be the middle man. Now that's a government program I can fully endorse.

Hope this helps,



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