20th Sunday after Pentecost

20th Sunday after Pentecost

October 18, 2020 | Bryan Simmons

Passage: Matthew 22:15-22

    Watch the worship video here.

    Now, this text normally shows up in stewardship season, and I'm supposed to say that all things belong to God, therefore give heavily to the church because it's not your money anyway.

    All right.

    Well, now, while I do believe that if you do believe that what Christ did for you is actually true, that we are forgiven and indeed welcomed into eternal life and have an opportunity to serve the neighbor here because we love those whom God loves. Well, I do believe that we need to give of our time, talents and treasures to support that. I'm not going to focus on that part of the text and use it in some sort of clever way to raise the budget.

    And talk instead about this issue of the Pharisees. Trying to trap Jesus in what he said. This comes off the heels of last week's text where Jesus talked about the wedding banquet and how the people that were invited to the wedding banquet didn't show up. So Jesus rounded up or Jesus said that the king rounded up everybody else he could find invited anyone that would come to the banquet. And Pastor Ryan talked last week about how God invites all people into the kingdom. To participate together into what God is doing in this world.

    And so, of course, it's the Pharisees that want to plot and entrap against Jesus, it's the Pharisees that want to make Jesus look bad and we must always be on our guard.

    Always be on our guard. To make sure that we do not become the Pharisees ourselves.

    It's a difficult thing for you and for me, especially those that have been involved in the church for years and years and years -- maybe grew up in the faith. You get to some pattern of thinking, some way of of assuming the way things are, the way things should be, and then someone comes and challenges it from the scriptures and you attack them instead of think, well, maybe this message is indeed for me. It's no different than what Jesus had to deal with, with the Pharisees. The Pharisees were those that were well-versed in scripture, well versed in tradition, well versed in the rituals of the day.

    And they thought they had it nailed.

    They thought they were the most righteous before God because of what they were doing, and they thought to the point that those that weren't doing what they were doing were to be pitied. Or to be frowned upon.

    And so they work to entrap Jesus in a contested political argument of the day.

    And depending on Jesus's answer, they just might be able to lump him in with the same people that have been murdering Roman citizens in a tax revolt at the time. To lump him in to this party of people that the Pharisees would consider sinister and hopefully that the majority of people would consider sinister -- to ruin Jesus's good name.

    Desperate times, indeed, for the Pharisees. Desperate times, indeed, for you and for me. For you and I are wrapped up in the same problem.

    Now, it may not be whether we should give coins to Caesar or not, the tax debate is an ongoing one for sure.

    But it's this idea of being questioned by others. This litmus test of trying to know one thing about us so that we can be typecast and discarded. So that our name could be besmirched based on our answer.

    And it's a disappointing thing that we lack this humility anymore in our society. That we do not come to the questions with a humility of perhaps being wrong. But we come to these questions with the bravado of knowing the answers.

    How easy it would be to say the wrong thing for Jesus. How easy it would be to say what needs to be said in the right way? But then be completely hammered by the perception that he's given off.

    You see, if Jesus says you are supposed to pay taxes because you live in Rome. Well, that enrages everything about who the Jewish people are because everything belongs to God, and if Jesus says, well, everything belongs to God, that makes him a target of the Roman Empire for not allowing Roman rule.

    And yet the reality is both. Everything belongs to God and they happen to be occupied by Rome.

    So Jesus says, show me the coin used for the tax, and they brought him a denarius and he says to them, Whose head is this and whose title? And on the coin itself, it is the emperor's. Give therefore, it to the emperor, the things that are the emperors and to God, the things that are God. And they walk away.

    The Pharisees were amazed. And they walk away. Trouble for the Pharisees is they couldn't grasp. Their own faith.

    It does all belong to God.

    And yet the Pharisees are trying to maintain this field of control in the created world.

    And just like the emperor, just like all those Roman denarius, is that we have a few left that we can maybe find. And they become relics, artifacts, things that end up in museums.

    The thing the Pharisees couldn't understand is that to try to take control of the created world is to be king of a heap of ashes.

    It all belongs to God.

    Our allegiance, therefore, needs to belong to God. How we support each other. How we think about what it means to do the right thing. How to love one another as Christ first loved us.

    It all belongs to God.

    In the end, none of this in this world truly matters. Except pointing to the love, the freedom, the forgiveness, the grace of God. The money doesn't matter. The proper way to do things at the end of the day doesn't matter. The buildings we construct for this don't matter.

    Everything crumbles and falls away, and all that is left is God's love.

    And our relationship to God.

    So we do the things of this earth while we're on this earth.

    But it all belongs to God.

    And as we look to God. We can't help but be humble. There's nothing for us to truly control, we are mere stewards in this world. We don't own anything.

    So what's the point in trying to make one another look bad, or typecast somebody in a negative light? For if God truly loves all people and all things belong to God, shouldn't we then love all people and work towards that end?

    Give, therefore, to the emperor the things that are the emperors and to God, the things that are God's.

    The emperor no longer exists, the empire of Rome has fallen. For several thousand years. And yet God remains. For it all belongs to God. Let us never forget. Let us always work. With God at the center. So that we never try to control this mountain of ash. Amen.