Summary: As Christians, we are to give ourselves to God.
“Whose Image Do We Bear?”
The political season is upon us and we’ve got some pretty hotly contested races going.
Which means the television is rife with political commercials.
I don’t know about you all, but I really get turned off by political commercials.
Why can’t the candidates be nice to one another, or at least be nice in general?
Oftentimes, I’ll find myself, after watching a political commercial, routing for the other guy…
…simply because the one who sponsored the advertisement seemed so vicious and unfair in his and her attacks on the other person they are running against.
You know the tag lines with the candidates saying: “I’m so and so and I approve this ad.”
Do you ever think to yourself, when you see that, “Well, if you approve that kind of mean-mud-slinging, and stretching of the truth…I don’t know why anyone would want to put their trust in you!”
“I’d be ashamed to put my endorsement on that kind of meanness!”
The other day, I was riding behind a big ‘ol SUV with a sticker of an American Flag on one side of the bumper, one of those Jesus in the fish-sign things in the middle, and a sticker for one of the meanest political advertisers, in my opinion, on the other.
Kind of turns me off.
Our Gospel Lesson for this morning is well known and often used as an excuse for political theocracies, a need to blindly follow oppressive governments, and so forth.
Once again, Christ’s Words have been seriously misunderstood and misused…
…kind of like some of those political t-v ads we see…
…the truth gets twisted.
Jesus does not clearly resolve the question of authority of Church versus State in this morning’s encounter.
Requirements, such as taxation, imposed by the State, are not the main issues of our passage.
Rather, the main issue is that, as believers, our total allegiance belongs to God, and all other obligations are to be subordinate to this supreme loyalty.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on here in Matthew Chapter 22.
The story starts with the Jewish Church leaders looking for some way to get rid of Jesus.
They know that they don’t have any power to do anything to Him themselves, except flog Him and that might just have made Jesus even more popular.
So they tried to find ways to get Him to say something against the Romans so they can take over and do something to keep Jesus quiet.
But there is a problem. A lot of the ordinary folks regarded Jesus as a prophet and just giving Him to the Romans could make things very difficult for themselves.
So they come up with a plan that, if it works, and they see no reason why it won’t, whatever Jesus does will upset one side or the other.
This is their plan. There are two main groups arguing against each other.
One was the Herodians. These were not a Church group, but a group of Jewish people who supported Herod Antipas and wanted closer and better ties with Rome. They supported Roman taxation, and believed it was right for everyone to pay taxes to Rome.
This tax wasn’t based on income, but was a poll tax, something everyone had to pay…
…and their was a lot of unscrupulousness that went along with it.
The other group was the Pharisees.
This group was a religious group and they objected strongly against paying anything to Rome, claiming it was a heresy to do so.
They based this claim on the fact that the tax had to be paid in Roman coins which had an image of Caesar on them.
They refused to pay anything but the Temple Tax, which was paid in Jewish shekels.
It’s hard to see how two such opposing forces could work together, but they did.
They had a common cause—get rid of this Jesus!!!
So they thought they had a question worked up, that no matter what Jesus answered, He would condemn Himself.
The question was: “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
The conspirators thought there were only two possible answers.
Either answer would condemn Jesus.
They start out by flattering Jesus, and Jesus, quite justifiably calls them hypocrites.
He knows what is in their hearts.
Matthew tells us that it was “evil”.
So instead of answering their yes or no question, Jesus throws a question back at them, by asking for one of the coins.
Apparently, Jesus did not make it a habit to carry Roman coins around with Him.
His treasure was elsewhere.
“Show me the coin used for paying the tax,” Jesus says.
He points to the picture and inscription on the coin.
“Whose portrait is this?,” Jesus asks, “And whose inscription?”