FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
GIVING TO CAESAR AND TO GOD
October 16, 2011
Today’s reading: Matthew 22:15-21
The Pharisees try to entrap Jesus in his speech (Mt 22:15). They oppose the Roman occupation, while the Herodians support Herod Antipas, tetrach of Galilee and Perea, thereby supporting the Roman administration of Palestine. Thus in asking Jesus whether it was lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not (Mt 22:17), they thought they had placed him in a no-win situation. To say yes would be to incur the wrath of the people, while to say no would be to bring him into conflict with the Roman occupiers.
What Jesus did was to ask them for the coin used to pay the census tax, and asked them whose image was on the coin (Mt 22:19-20). They replied, “Caesar’s” (Mt 22:21a). At that Jesus said, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” (Mt 22:21b).
Jesus’ reply was very profound. One may use the coin to repay Caesar, because the coin bears Caesar’s image and so belongs to him. On the other hand, people are made in the image and likeness of God. Bearing God’s image, we belong to Him. As such, we should repay God with what is due to Him.
What is of course due to God is our very life, Jesus having paid for our life on the cross. Also, we are to do good deeds that reflect the love for God and His people that we owe to Him. Further, since everything belongs to God, including our finances, we are to be proper stewards.
In the area of finances, how do we repay to God? “In tithes and in offerings!” (Mal 3:8c). When we do not return to God, we rob Him! (Mal 3:7b-8a). When we rob God, then we are accursed (Mal 3:9). When we are accursed, we miss out on the bountiful blessings to come with honoring God with our finances (Mal 3:10).
It is said that there are two things one cannot avoid in life–death and taxes (of course some try very hard to avoid or evade the latter!). The government imposes its taxes (and rightly so) and already deducts it from people’s paychecks so that we receive an amount net of taxes (for employees). Government would say it is its right to do that in order to support its governance work, just as it is our obligation to pay taxes as part of our right and privilege as citizens.
Now we are citizens of the Kingdom, and we do have the obligation to support God’s work. But God, while making clear our obligation, does not automatically take the tithe. Rather, the all-powerful God waits patiently for us to pay it.
The government owns just a part of our money, while God owns it all. The government takes its part automatically, while God patiently waits for His share. The government takes anywhere from 32% to over half of our income, while God is content with 10%. Most governments misuse our taxes, while God is perfectly just in all His ways. Many citizens feel they only get a trickle of the benefits that come from government, while God opens the floodgates and pours down blessings without measure (Mal 3:10c).
You repay to Caesar (I hope you do!). Now repay to God.
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