This article is based on a service taken by our Junior Church in October 2011. It focused on Matthew 22:15-22 about the things which are Caesar’s, and which are God’s. For 2000 years, now preachers, ministers and Christians have spent a great deal time over this passage.
This story is about the attitudes and the actions of those who refused to believe in Jesus. It’s also about giving – or – as the old English version of the bible puts it – about rendering. “Render unto Caesar,” said Jesus, “the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” One of the things in life that is inevitable is that somebody will always be asking you to pay taxes
National government or local government: whether to pay for schools, the health service, collecting the bins or mending the roads. Taxes are inevitable and you can be sure that the inland revenue knows exactly how much you owe and will be quick to tell you if you haven’t paid on time.
The question I want to pose is this – What do you and I have that belongs to God?
And I want to get very personal and focus specifically about money and what it is that we owe to God. Why would I do this? Well because Jesus talks about money not just here in this passage but in many other places in the New Testament; Jesus tells us how to deal with and how to use money. As Christians we need to follow Jesus teaching about money and about how we use our time.”Render unto Caesar,” said Jesus, “the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
The question to ask is what are the things we owe to God?
The first thing to remember is that our Gifts to God and in particular our money are a payment against a debt, We owe everything to God, we are in his image and all that we have has comes from him. We don’t give our gifts to God in order to get something back.
We don’t give to God because we hope to receive special favours in return. We give out of gratitude for what God has already done in our behalf. We are saved by Gods grace not by the actions we take. Our gifts are against a debt, they are not and could never be a bribe. Each one of us has a debt of gratitude to God. A debt that comes out of us recognising that in the end everything we have comes from God and belongs to God.
We need to recognize that God doesn’t need our money. But we need to give. It’s easy for us to have the idea that God needs our money to fulfil his plans here on earth. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When we give our gifts to God it is not because God needs anything. It is because we need to give!
Its because we need to combat the power of “stuff”, you know all the things that we are told we cannot do without! I’ve written about “stuff” before and how it gets in the way of us living the lives God wants us to live. Call it materialism, always wanting more fashionable clothes, the latest plasma screen, faster car, sharper suit, shiniest smart phone, and perhaps always wanting more money There is no more deceptive and deadly power on this earth than materialism. And I am sure it is a drug, just as addictive as heroin or cocaine. The more goods, the more things, the more stuff on earth we have, the more we feel we need. Luxuries become necessities; and what was once extravagance becomes an essential. And, even worse, the more we have, the more we feel we deserve until the power of materialism separates us from our neighbours, friends and ultimately from God.
That is why Jesus had more to say about money than any other subject – not because God needs our money but because we need to give. It is the only way to break materialism’s hold. And, I believe that materialism has never been stronger than it is right now.
AND THERE’S ONE THING MORE that needs to be said: Our giving to God is supposed to come off the top, not from what we have left over. The person who believes in God but does not have faith in God says, “Don’t ask me to pledge to God’s work. I will give as I am able.” Their idea is to give if they have enough left over after satisfying their needs and desires. There are many Christians who practice this kind of giving – who give from what is left over rather than from what they first receive, and so their offering is but a token gift –a token gift grows out of a token faith.
I want to share a true story, one that has been told for many years.
It seems that there was a church who needed a new treasurer, so they asked the local mill owner to take the position. He agreed under two conditions.
One, that no treasurer’s report would be given for the first year, and two, that no questions be asked about finances during that year. The people were surprised, but finally agreed since most of them did business with him and he was a trusted man. At the end of the year he gave his report:
- The church mortgage of some £5000 has been paid.
- The minister’s salary has been increased by 10%.
- There are no outstanding bills.
- And we have cash in the bank
- And in our community
- The soup kitchen has enough money to feed the poor and
- The children of the migrant workers now attend nursery
Immediately the shocked congregation asked, “How did you do it? Where did the money come from?” He quietly answered: “Most of you bring your grain to my mill. Throughout the year I simply kept ten percent of the flour I milled on your behalf, I sold it and gave it in your name. You didn’t even miss it!”
The person who gives to God only what is left over will never be a cheerful giver. He or she will always give out of a resentful heart. But the man or woman who gives God the first fruits will know the joy and the satisfaction that comes with truly trusting God. finally, let me say this, so that you do not go away thinking that that this is a not very subtle request for increased giving — it is not. What money you give is not important
What is important is whether or not we give ourselves to God –
What is important is whether or not we see God as the source of our life and our living
What is important is that we live as people of gratitude – a people of faith
Lord may these words be as seeds in your garden here on earth