QUESTIONS JESUS ASKED - Whose Image is This? Matthew 22:15-22
By Ted Schroder,
January 22, 2017
On Friday, January 20, power transferred from one U.S. President to another. The press and the pundits are having their say and pronouncing on the future prospects for the new administration. The political parties will debate each other to promote their own agendas. This is nothing new in the history of politics. Partisanship is the way in which coalitions of the likeminded join together to govern and to oppose one another.
In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees who were ardent nationalists and opposed to Roman rule and the hated Herodians who supported the Roman rule of the Herods mounted a campaign to trap him into saying the wrong thing. They flattered him by saying: “Teacher we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Jesus was no fool. He knew what they were up to, their evil intent, and said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax. Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” Caesar’s, they replied. Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Government is instituted “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty” (Preamble, The U.S. Constitution). “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States” (Article 1, Section 8). Jesus supports such activities as are necessary for our society. The government provides the currency that is legal tender for all debts, public and private. We could not carry on our daily lives unless we had a form of government that enabled us to have stability, security and justice. This is God’s provision for us (Rom.13:1-7).
But Jesus did not stop there. He went on to say: “Give to God what is God’s” What is God’s? What is God’s currency? Where is God’s image to be found? God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis1:27). We are God’s currency. We are to give to God what is God’s, i.e. our whole lives. “Offer your bodies (your earthly lives) as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).
Each day we give to God what is God’s in how we live our lives. We are the presidents of our country. We have the responsibility to administer the life God has given us to provide for his kingdom. All that we are and all that we have is his to command and for us to obey in his service. Our King of Kings is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or power or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17). It is through him that God provides us with a perfect spiritual union, justice and mercy, personal tranquility and peace, divine protection and the blessings of the truth of the Gospel that makes us free. It is in him that we are being renewed into a new self in the image of our Creator.
We do not pay taxes to God, but we give him our lives as a living sacrifice. “No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed: Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 16:16,17). Proportionate giving as the Lord has blessed us is a challenge. How do we measure a fair proportion of God’s blessings? He has blessed us in so many ways: living in this great nation with the peaceful transfer of powers, with the blessings of stability, security, and justice. He has blessed us with the splendor of the whole creation, the wonder of life, and the mystery of love. We have the blessing of family and friends, of sight, sound, taste, touch; of good books, music and food; of clothing and housing. We are blessed to have the promises of the Bible, the gift of prayer, the community of faith in the Church, and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. The LORD our God has blessed us with the gift of salvation, the gift of peace, the gift of joy, the gift of forgiveness, the gift of eternal life. What is the sacrificial gift that would be in proportion to the way the LORD your God has blessed you?
“The gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have”(2 Corinthians 8:12). What do we have? What is an acceptable gift? If there is a parallel with Caesar you could use the rate of taxation. What is acceptable to Caesar? Income tax rates are progressive from 10% to 39.6%. Then there are real estate taxes and sales taxes. The Bible speaks of tithing 10%. What base should you use: before or after deductions and taxes, before or after family obligations? I struggle every year with trying to decide what is acceptable after taking into consideration all my responsibilities. I take it to the Lord in prayer and ask him to guide me as I seek to support his work through the church and through other missionary, educational and charitable agencies. I have no choice in what I give to Caesar. The law mandates it. But giving to God is a response to his grace, not his law. We give freely and thankfully for all his blessings to us and to share his blessings with others.
“The gift is acceptable to what one has.” What do you have in Christ? What are the unsearchable riches of Christ? Out of his glorious riches he strengthens you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. While your mortal bodies may deteriorate, and you may face discouragement, disease, troubles, and depression you do not lose heart. Though outwardly you are wasting away, yet inwardly you are being renewed day by day. Your present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in you. You know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. If God is for you, who can be against you. He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things. Who shall separate you from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or danger or decline? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. He has given us the whole armor of God to protect us and to provide for us.
“We may patiently pass through this life with all its troubles content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph. Such is the nature of his rule, that he shares with us all that he has received from the Father. Now he arms and equips us with his power, adorns us with his beauty and magnificence, enriches us with his wealth.” (John Calvin, Institutes XV, 4)
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We can never out-give God. His grace is sufficient for us. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Corinthians 9:8,11).
Give to God what is God’s. Consecrate yourself to his service.
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