Father Philip Sang: Give to God What is God’s

Sermon delivered on Trinity 19A, Sunday, October 18, 2020 at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church, Westerville, OH.

There is no audio podcast for today’s sermon.

Lectionary texts: Exodus 33.12-23; Psalm 99; 1 Thessalonians 1.1-10; St. Matthew 22.15-22.

It’s providential that we come to this passage this morning; just a few days before we are called upon to perform an important civic duty and vote.

We talk much about the duties that we are obligated to perform to our government. And it seems to me that, even if we don’t enjoy those duties, most of us recognize their importance and are very careful to keep them. We are careful to vote; and we are careful to respond when called upon to perform jury duty; and we’re careful to pay our taxes. And of course, we’re always grateful for those who rise up for our nation’s defense through the service of the military. We consider these to be among the most important obligations we can fulfill.

But what about our even greater obligations to God? Are we as careful to render to Him the things that we owe to Him as we are to render our obligations to our government? How careful are we to even know what it is that God says we owe Him? And what does it say about us when we are so concerned to carefully perform the duties that a temporal, human government obligates us to, while almost completely ignoring the even greater duties and obligations that the almighty God demands of us?

I believe that this morning’s passage touches on this whole matter. We should, of course, be very careful to perform our duties as citizens of the earthly government in which God has placed. But we should be even more careful to perform the greater duties and obligations we owe to the God of the universe—the God who made us for Himself, and who has absolute and complete Creatorship-rights over us.

To put it another way—a way that I’m sure you’ll recognize—we shouldn’t fail to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; but we should make even more certain that we render to God the things that are God’s.

That, I believe, is the main point of this morning’s passage. It’s a passage that teaches us many important things; but the main thing I believe it seeks to teach us is that above all other obligations we have in life, we are obliged first to render to God His rights over us.

Here is todays gospel reading

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way (Matthew 22:15-22).

I love this gospel for the less-than-noble reason: I love it whenever someone who is arrogant, and malicious, and crafty, gets knocked off their pedestal. I also love this passage for a good reason: it reveals the wisdom and authority of our wonderful Lord Jesus. No one ever made a fool of Him!

But this story isn’t given to us without a very good purpose. If the only lesson that there was to be learned from it was that no one should ever try to trap Jesus, that would certainly be profitable. But I believe there’s more for us to learn than just that.

The first thing we see in this question is that it was motivated by a desire to trap the Lord in His words. Matthew tells us, “Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk”. The word that Matthew uses—to “entangle”—is one that was used of the way a hunter trapped and ensnared an animal in order to take it captive. The means by which they intended to trap Him was through His own words; and the bate they proposed to use was this question. They had huddled together in order to craft the perfect question that would make it possible for them to bring Him before the authorities and discredit Him before the people—thus getting rid of Him without having to lay a hand on Him themselves.

And so, notice the trap they set for Him. They said, “Tell us, therefore, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

Now; you can be sure that this was a question that they had already been wrestling with between themselves. Obviously, the Pharisees would have answered “no”. They had to pay the taxes, of course; otherwise they’d have the Roman soldiers down on their necks. But they deeply resented doing so. It bucked against them; because every time they paid the required tax to the Roman government, it was a vivid reminder that they were not a free people. Here they were—God’s special people; but they were under the thumb of a pagan nation. The Roman tax was a real thorn in their sandals! And yet, the Herodians would have answered “yes” to the same question.

But this question was specially crafted to discredit our Lord before all the people. Think of it; if He said yes—that it was legal to pay taxes to Caesar—then the Pharisees could accused Him before the people, and say that He was not conquering Messiah that they had expected. And if He said no—that it was not legal to pay taxes to Caesar—then the Herodians could immediately reported Him to the Roman governor. What a clever question! What a great trap! If He simply said “yes”, He would lose. And if He simply said “no”, He would still lose!

“Jesus perceived their wickedness . . .” He said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites?”

And again; it would be a very bad move to miss the lesson here. We can very easily fool other people about what’s really in our hearts. Notice how Jesus puts the question back to them. He says, “Show Me the tax money”;

And Jesus held it up and asked, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

When they said the obvious—that it had Caesar’s image and inscription, then Jesus simply said, “Render, therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s . . .” It’s his coin. Give it back to him.

Now here’s where most people place the emphasis on this passage—in the first half of the Lord’s answer. I believe it’s absolutely legitimate to see in this the Christian’s duty to fulfill his or her proper obligations to the government under which God has called them to live. The Bible itself clearly teaches us this (Romans 13:1-7,and Peter 2:13-17)

Fulfilling our God-appointed obligations to the government, as good citizens, is a matter of bearing a good witness to our Lord before the world—to say nothing of it being a matter of obedience to our Lord Himself. I am, first, a citizen of My Father’s kingdom; but because I am a citizen of His eternal kingdom first, I am therefore obligated to be a good and faithful citizen of the temporal kingdom in which He has placed me—just as He has commanded me.

But it seems to me that we often put the greatest emphasis on that first part of our Lord’s answer; and fail to give proper attention to the greater issue expressed in the second part of His answer. In fact, the first part of His answer is there in order to serve as the object lesson of the second part of His answer—that we are to render “to God the things that are God’s”.

That second obligation, it seems to me, is what really brought the conviction down on those who were seeking to trap Him with their question. Matthew tells us that, when they heard His answer, “they marveled, and left Him and went their way.”

If they had given to God what first belonged to God, they would not only render to Caesar what was Caesar’s, but they would have also bowed down before the Lord Jesus Christ and pledged their first allegiance to Him.

So the question is: How careful are we to render to God the things that we owe to Him? This is a greater obligation than all others. How are we doing in terms of keeping it? Let me suggest a few ways that, I believe, state those obligations to us. This list is far from exhaustive; but it may be enough to get you thinking. Ask yourself, as I read these passages to you, how you are doing in rendering to God what belongs to God:

For one thing, you owe God honor. In Malachi 1:6, He says,

“A son honors his father, And a servant his master.

If then I am the Father, Where is My honor?

And if I am a Master, Where is My reverence?” (Mal. 1:6).

Or how about outside of the church building—and in the everyday business of life? You owe God a godly daily life. Micah 6:8 says,

With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God?

Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old?

Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8).

What about your wealth. Everything that you have is a gift from Him; and you owe Him the rights to the first and best share. In Malachi 3:8-10, He tells the people of Israel;

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6-8).

What about your wealth. Everything that you have is a gift from Him; and you owe Him the rights to the first and best share. In Malachi 3:8-10, He tells the people of Israel;

“Will a man rob God?

Yet you have robbed Me!

But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation.

Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the LORD of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:8-10).

You owe Him your service to His kingdom agenda. When it comes to all of the other concerns of life, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33;

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33).

You owe Him your personal holiness. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says;

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

He has a right to have you glorify Him with your whole being. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says;

For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20).

He has a right to your body. In Romans 12:1—after Paul’s long description of God’s work in saving us through faith in Christ—it says;

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy , acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service . . .” (Romans 12:1).

He has a right to your first love. In Matthew 22:37-40; Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment. And He said;

“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

He even has the right to expect you to believe on His Son. In John 6:29, Jesus said,

“This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29).

Dear brothers and sisters, it’s our duty to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But let’s be even more sure that we do the greater duty—to faithfully render to God what is God’s.

In the name of God the Father the son and the Holy spirit