Faithlife
Faithlife

Year A, Proper 24 2008

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 3 views
Notes & Transcripts

YEAR A, PROPER 24 2008

 

 

Isaiah 45:1-7

{1} Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped to subdue nations before him and strip kings of their robes, to open doors before him-- and the gates shall not be closed: {2} I will go before you and level the mountains, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, {3} I will give you the treasures of darkness and riches hidden in secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. {4} For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I surname you, though you do not know me. {5} I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides me there is no god. I arm you, though you do not know me, {6} so that they may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is no one besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other. {7} I form light and create darkness, I make weal and create woe; I the LORD do all these things.

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

{1} Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

Grace to you and peace.

{2} We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly {3} remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. {4} For we know, brothers and sisters beloved by God, that he has chosen you, {5} because our message of the gospel came to you not in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of persons we proved to be among you for your sake. {6} And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for in spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, {7} so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. {8} For the word of the Lord has sounded forth from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has become known, so that we have no need to speak about it. {9} For the people of those regions report about us what kind of welcome we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, {10} and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the wrath that is coming.

Matthew 22:15-22

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap [Jesus] in what he said.

So 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.

Tell us, then, what you think.

Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?"

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said,

"Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites?

Show me the coin used for the tax."

And they brought him a denarius.

Then he said to them,

"Whose head is this, and whose title?"

They 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."

When they heard this, they were amazed;

and they left him and went away.

v   Opening

Ø    It is one of the more famous sayings of Jesus –

§       Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

§       It is a very clever answer to a question asked for the sole purpose of trapping Jesus.

·       And it is famous.

·       And we have all probably heard it before.

Ø    But do we really know what it means?

§       What does it mean to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and give to God the things that are God’s?

§       What is Caesar’s and what is God’s?

Ø    I think it is worth digging into this question.

§       It’s worth avoiding any simple answers and really exploring what it might mean for us today.

§       But let me back up, and first explore why this came up at all.

v   Background to the Question

Ø    We are getting closer and closer to the cross in the Gospel of Matthew.

§       Jesus is getting the Jewish authorities more and more upset with him, and now they are simply out to get him.

§       They are plotting to entrap him.

Ø    So the Pharisees and the Herodians gang up on him in this Gospel Lesson, and ask him a seemingly simple question:

§       “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?”

§       A simple question, right?

Ø    But it is actually a trick question, because there is seemingly no answer that won’t get Jesus in trouble.

§       If he says that it is unlawful to pay taxes to the emperor, he will get himself in trouble with the Roman authorities.

§       If he says that it is lawful, then he will disappoint his followers who believe that it is morally wrong to pay this tax.

·       Why would they think it is morally wrong to pay the tax?

·       Well, this particular tax can only be paid in Roman coin, most of which had an image and inscription that was considered blasphemous.

·       Most of the Roman coin had an image of Caesar on it, with the inscription on it:

¨     “Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest.”

¨     In other words, these coins did not have “In God Trust” on them – instead they claimed that Caesar himself was divine, was a god.

¨     These coins, in other words, directly violated the commandment against worshiping gods other than the God of Israel.

¨     So there were many Jews who not only argued that they shouldn’t pay the tax with this coin, but that they shouldn’t carry the coin around at all.

Ø    So, again, this is a trick question that Jesus is being asked.

§       There is seemingly no answer that will not get him in trouble.

§       So what does he do?

·       He asks them to show him the coin used for the tax.

·       And they do.

·       And he asks them, “Whose head is on it, and whose title?”

¨     Of course, it was Caesar’s head, with the title ‘august son of the divine Augustus, high priest.’

¨     So they answered him honestly, it is Caesar’s head.

·       And then he spoke those memorable words,

¨     “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God the things that are God’s.”

¨     And when they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

v   So What Did It Mean?

Ø    Now, then, back to the original question that I asked:

§       What does this mean?

·       What does it mean for us to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God the things that are God’s?

§       For those who first head this, perhaps the meaning was more obvious.

·       Empty your pockets and your piggy banks and give to Caesar all of his blasphemous coins.

·       Don’t just pay the tax.

·       Give him all of these coins.

·       Because they are blasphemous.

·       That’s what it meant then.

v   And What Does It Mean?

Ø    But what about us?

Ø    Our coins aren’t blasphemous.

§       Our quarter doesn’t claim that George Washington is divine.

§       It even says “In God We Trust.”

Ø    So what is Caesar’s?

§       Does it simply mean that we should pay our taxes and be good citizens?

Ø    And what is God’s?

§       How do we know what to give to God and what to give to the government?

§       I have heard of one person who interpreted this saying in an interesting way:

·       He makes sure that he always gives more of his money to the Church than he does to the government.

·       That’s his way of doing what Jesus teaches.

·       Not bad, right?

Ø    What is God’s?

§       The most obvious answer, I suppose, is everything.

·       The whole earth is the Lord’s, says Psalm 24.

·       It’s all God’s.

§       But does that mean that we should give everything to God?

§       The problem with that is that we think that we should give everything to God, we often end up giving Him whatever’s left over.

Ø    So I want to think about this a little differently today.

§       I want us to try and get specific about what is God’s.

§       And I want us to think about three gifts that God gives us, gifts which Paul describes as “the greater gifts”.

§       And they are the gifts of faith, hope, and love.

§       What might it mean to give these gifts to God?

v   Faith

Ø    Let’s start with faith.

§       Faith is God’s gift to us, right?

§       That’s what we believe as Lutheran Christians.

Ø    Faith is God’s gift to us, but it is also a gift which we can give to God.

§       How can we give it to God?

§       By placing our ultimate faith, our ultimate trust, in God alone.

§       “In God We Trust” say our coins, but we don’t always live that way.

·       We often are tempted to place our trust in something or someone other than God.

§       Our ultimate trust must be placed in God alone.

·       Not doctors or medicine, not politicians or government, not bankers or our investments.

·       Our ultimate trust must be placed in God alone.

v   Hope

Ø    How about hope?

§       Hope has become one of the political buzzwords that those running for office like to toss around.

§       But hope is in the first place a gift from God.

Ø    And we are called to place our ultimate hope in God.

§       And that means that our ultimate hope is not found in this life but the next.

·       That’s not to say that we can’t hope for things in this life.

·       It’s just that our ultimate hope is always the life that God alone can offer us, which is not bound by the grave.

§       Our ultimate hope is a gift from God.

·       And it is a gift which we can give to God, by placing our ultimate hope in Him.

v   Love

Ø    And then, of course, there is the greatest gift, as Paul describes it.

Ø    Faith, hope, and love abide, and the greatest of these is love.

§       If we are to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God the things that are God’s, then surely we are to give our love to God.

·       Caesar will never love us.

·       Money will never love us.

§       God loves us.

·       And it is God alone who loved us enough to give His only Son.

§       And more than anything else, love is the gift that we can give to God.

·       We can love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and we can love our neighbor as our self.

§       And what do you do when you want to show someone you love them?

·       You spend time with them.

¨     Isn’t that what we do when we worship or pray?

·       You listen to them.

¨     Isn’t that what we do when we read and listen to His Word?

·       You shower them with gifts.

¨     Isn’t that what we do when we offer our tithes and offerings?

¨     You do nice things for them.

§       Isn’t that what we do when we serve Him in the Church or in the world?

·       Simple things, perhaps, but time-honored ways to show our love to someone.

·       And who better to show our love to than God?

v   Closing

Ø    I imagine that there will be a lot of politically-focused sermons today.

§       But as we think about what it means to give to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s,

§       I’d rather focus on the spiritual side of this, on giving to God what is God’s.

§       That can mean a lot of different things.

§       But, today at least, let’s think about what it means to give Him our faith, our hope, and our love.

§       Our ultimate faith, and ultimate hope, and ultimate love.

Ø    Always to the glory of God. Amen

RELATED MEDIA
See the rest →
RELATED SERMONS
See the rest →