Render Unto God . . .
Text:: Matt. 22:15-22
Series: Claim the Vision - Sermon 1
15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.
16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
15Then the Pharisees met together to think of a way to trap Jesus into saying something for which they could accuse him. 16They decided to send some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to ask him this question: "Teacher, we know how honest you are. You teach about the way of God regardless of the consequences. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. 17Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to the Roman government or not?"
18But Jesus knew their evil motives. "You hypocrites!" he said. "Whom are you trying to fool with your trick questions? 19Here, show me the Roman coin used for the tax." When they handed him the coin, 20he asked, "Whose picture and title are stamped on it?"
21"Caesar’s," they replied.
"Well, then," he said, "give to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God." 22His reply amazed them, and they went away.
Today, we kick off our stewardship campaign. For many of us the next month will be like a trio to the doctor’s office for an annual check-up. The Doc sits you on a table and proceeds to poke prod and stick you while asking, “Does that hurt? How about this?”
If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened. The doctor has pushed too hard (but will never admit it!) or there’s something wrong and the doctor will say, “We’d better do some tests. It’s not supposed to hurt there.”
So it is when pastors preach on financial responsibility, and some members cry out in discomfort, criticizing both the message and the messenger. Either the preacher has pushed to hard (and we will never admit it either) or, more likely, something is wrong. (From Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching by Brian Larson)
I hope you will go into this campaign with an open mind and soft heart. When the Scripture prod and poke and cause you pain, ask first, what might be wrong.
This morning we are going to take a brief look at the famous gospel account of Jesus saying, “ Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
This may be an especially painful passage, because it not only talks about giving to God, but giving to then government!!!
A Little Boy wanted $100.00 badly and prayed to God for a whole week, but nothing happened. So, he decided to write God a letter requesting the $100.00. When the Post Office got the letter addressed to God they forwarded it on to the Whitehouse. The President was very impressed, touched and amused so he instructed his aid to send the boy $5.00. He thought $5.00 would be a lot to the little boy. The boy was, indeed, delighted by the money. He sat down and wrote a thank you note immediately, which read:
Thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it through Washington and, as usual, they kept most of it.
(From bucket of Surprises by John and Mark Stibbe)
Well, the people living 2000 years ago didn’t like to pay taxes anymore than we do today. In fact, there was a raging debate about the morality of paying tribute to Rome.
The Pharisees teamed up the Herodians in order to impale Jesus on this hot button issue. They knew that to get to Jesus they needed to turn the people against Him and then, as now, most of the common folk loved him! The Herodians were a political party which supported the rule of Herod. They were in favor of paying the tribute to Rome and the Pharisees took the opposite position saying it was immoral to pay money to a pagan empire.
I think it will be helpful for us to get some background on the political situation.
When Herod the Great died in 4 B.C. the kingdom was divided among his three sons. Herod Antipas ruled Galilee until 39 A. D. while Judea was taken over by Archelaus. Paying taxes to Herod’s sons was no great problem because they were Jews. However, after ruling for nine years Archelaus became so hated by his subject that the Roman emperor had to remove him in order to prevent a revolt. His place the emperor sent a Roman prefect to rule Judea and now he collected the taxes --- hence the problem. Some of the most zealous Jews refused to pay the taxes while other who benefited from Roman occupation, like the Herodians, were very much in favor of paying the Roman taxes.
So, if Jesus says that the tax is wrong the Herodians would have turned Him to Pilate as a traitor and rebel, but if He says the tax should be paid the zealots would turn the people against Him.
They thought they had Him between the rock and that pesky hard place. He wouldn’t lie and Jesus never did tell people just what they wanted to hear so He would answer with His honest opinion and no matter what He said they had Him!
As always, Jesus surprises them. He asks to see a coin used to pay theses taxes. Apparently He doesn’t carry even a single penny on His person. They hand Him a silver coin and He then holds it up and asks whose image is seen on the coin. Simple question and unavoidable answer; it is the image of the emperor. I can imagine Jesus flipping the coin back at them now with a shrug, “So give it back to him then, but be sure to give God what belongs to Him too.” In the KJV it reads, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
The verb translated ‘render’ here often carries the sense of giving something “back” to who it belongs. The coin was given out by Rome so give it back to Rome. They are, like it or not, a part of Rome and have a duty to pay those taxes, but there is also an obligation to God.
So here is the key question: What belongs to God?
Well, the answer, I think, has to be – the things that bear his image.
We all own things and we always mark what we own in some to prove that it belongs to us. At the bank a few moths ago they took my Id and scanned it into the computer so that now when the account is called up I don’t have to show my ID anymore because my picture pops right up in the computer. We have SS numbers to prove the taxes we pay come from us. We have passwords in the high tech world and good old-fashioned signatures for the low-tech world. It’s all an attempt to prove ownership. When Matt started school he rode the bus and Lou came up with a rather unique way of making sure people knew where he belonged. She took a big marker and wrote their address and phone number across their stomachs! I’ve herd of putting names on underwear and addresses on backpacks, but this is a new idea for me. I guess she never had to worry about them losing their stomachs.
So God wants what belongs to Him too and He also marked it. When He created Adam and Eve He created them in “His image”. God’s picture is stamped upon or very souls. Jesus is asking for our hearts and lives in this passage. You see, He understands that if He has our hearts He will have our money and talents and worship all by default. It’s a package deal. If there are certain parts of your life withheld from God then there are certain parts of your heart withheld from Him.
Some preach on this passage and say that by “Render unto God” Jesus meant that they should pay their tithes, but that is only a small part of what He is saying. God is not like the school bully who demands his cut of your lunch money or else he beats up! God does not ask for a portion of income because He needs the money either. Remember that He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. The whole earth is His to mine. No, He can do just fine without your or my piddlely check each week. Our giving unto to Him is an outward sign of our inward condition. It is not just an obligation, but an opportunity for blessing. Hearts that belong to God rejoice in the opportunity to use what God has given them to worship Him; weather it be by the giving of money, time, talents or an old devotional book from your garage to a new convert. What we have we gladly give to God and then set back in excited anticipation to see how He will use what we give.
That is vision! Expecting God to do great things; being able to see the future through spiritual eyes. I have a vision for the church. I see, in the eyes of my heart, all kinds of growth and ministry going. I see us becoming a leading church in the state in missions giving. I see light streaming through new stain glass windows and shining onto all kinds of new faces. I see a church that is reaching out to new people in all sort of exciting ways. When I prepare a sermon, come to worship or drop a check into the offering I do those things with pleasure and excitement because through those things I am participating in the plans of God. He will speak through my sermon, be glorified by my worship and build with my check!
Walt Disney said, “Remember that this whole thing started with a mouse.”
Walt had vision. He saw what MIGHT be and how things COULD grow.
A Tourist visiting Italy came upon a construction site.
“What are you doing?” he asked the three stone masons.
“I’m cutting the stone,” answered the first.
“I’m cutting the stone for 1000 lire a day,” said the second.
“I’m helping to build a cathedral,” said the third. (from Bucket of Suprises)
When you “render unto God” what do you see?
CLAIM THE VISION!!!!