Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost — October 22, 2017
Responding in Faith or Fear
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
In the United States, Tax Day is a colloquial term for the day individual income tax returns are due. Many have complied consistently with the requirements of this day through a sense of duty, some for fear of consequences if they don’t. Likewise, in Jesus’ time folks were familiar with the temple levy, as well as Rome’s general restrictions on personal and spiritual liberties. Since people knew what was expected, they did not resist, especially because penalties for doing so were often severe and swift. One could be imprisoned or, worse, mocked and killed for civil noncompliance.
When it came to responding to Caesar with what was Caesar’s, people had no real self-determination in the matter; they simply had a duty, most likely motivated by anxiety.
Still . . . Jesus knew that the much deeper opportunity for them was thinking through and responding to God with what was God’s. To do this, they had to understand and relate to God in a way that opened their hearts to choice as well. It was being able to say no, and yet at the same time (the potential of . . .) recognizing God’s providence over every moment of their existence.
This is our test as well. Among all the distractions and voices calling for our allegiance, can we remove ourselves long enough to get that wider view which understands that it all comes from and belongs to God? In our freedom to reject, can we respond in faith, rather than duty or fear?
There is no calculation or percentage that works when it comes to responding to God’s love and graces—only our hearts.
Chris Thore, pastor, New Beginnings Moravian Church, Huntersville, North Carolina