Pentecost 20 – Proper 24
Prayer & Preaching
“What shall I render?”
O God, the protector of all who trust in You, have mercy on us that, with You as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
THEME: All Obligations Are to God, Expressed In Two Kingdoms
As we wind down to the conclusion of the Church Year the Gospel lesson appointed to be read on this Sunday gives us the opportunity to determine what our obligations are with respect to our God and to our government. This is important issue especially as we ask ourselves the question - how are we to be witnesses in this world?
There are certainly many differing opinions concerning this subject of church and State or God and government. Some believe that Christians are to be totally separated from this world and society. Some Christians believe that the child of God is to have absolutely nothing to do with this world and is therefore to be shielded and separated from the outside world. An example of such exists in our own backyard in the Amish community. Their manner of dress, their customs, their traditions are deliberate. They believe that the Christian is to completely separate from the rest of us. Their mantra - “Be Ye Separate.”
Then there are Christians who would go so far as to say that as Christians we have the obligation to change the world by being actively aggressive in the shaping of government policy and in dictating the culture of the world. There are some church leaders going so far as to publicly endorse particular political candidates.
So how ought we approach this sometimes difficult subject? Do religion and politics mix? We have the obligation to be witnesses in the world. As Christians we certainly have a message the world needs to hear and what is more relevant to a lost world than the objective truth of the gospel?
By these words of our Savior we must say that all obligations are to God as they are expressed in two kingdoms.
The Pharisees as a group were fiercely loyal to the Jewish nation. They hated the Romans. The Herodians on the other hand - were fiercely loyal to Rome which ruled the Jews with great difficulty. They come to Jesus with a question.
The Pharisees had hoped to trap Jesus in His teaching. If Jesus said it was unlawful to give tribute to Caesar, the Herodians would have Him brought to court on a charge of sedition, a crime punishable by death. If Jesus said it was lawful to pay tribute to Caesar, the Herodians would have advertised this and used it as an opportunity to diminish Jesus’ popularity before those persons who labored under the yoke of the Roman government (and wished to be freed). But Jesus refused to be trapped. And His answer gives mankind direction in living for all ages of the world.
I. THE KINGDOM OF THIS WORLD IS OF GOD AND DEMANDS MY OBLIGATIONS
A. The kingdom of this world is of God. Jesus uses the word "Caesar" to symbolize the power of the government. In the history of the world there have been many different forms of government but all are of God. Jesus said to Pilate a Roman Governor. "You would have no authority over Me if it had not been given to you from above." (John. 19:11.) The God-man, Jesus, was subject to the earthly authority which He had given to Pilate. St. Paul says in Romans 13:1: "Let every person be subject to higher authorities because there is no authority which is not of God and the authorities which exist have been ordained of God." God Himself has given us an earthly government. Daniel acknowledged the Babylonians as his government. Jesus and Paul recognized Rome as their God-given government.
B. The kingdom of this world demands my obligations. Jesus told the Pharisees and the Herodians: "Pay to Caesar what you owe to Caesar." What did they owe to Caesar? We owe taxes, obedience to all laws, and loyalty to the government. That is what Jesus Himself, Paul and Peter did. In Matthew 17:24-27 Jesus gives us the correct attitude toward earthly power. He directed Peter to catch a fish which would yield a coin with which Peter would pay their tax. And Jesus obeyed all laws whether of the Jews or Romans. He submitted both to Pilate and Herod at His trial even though it was an unjust trial.
And the apostles direct us to willing obedience toward our government. Says St. Paul – “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing.” Romans 13:1-6
Peter reminds us -– "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men."- I Peter 2:13-16
TRANSITION: The Kingdom of this world is of God so also is the Kingdom of God to which I am obligated.
II. THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS OF GOD AND DEMANDS MY OBLIGATIONS
A. The kingdom of God is of God. Jesus said to the Pharisees and Herodians: "Pay to God the things of God." Jesus said in Matthew16:18 "You are Peter and on this rock I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven. Whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Peter's confession of Christ. Christ builds His church on the confession of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And even Satan and his hosts cannot destroy this church. To this church Christ gives the power to forgive sins to penitent sinners and to withhold forgiveness from sinners who refuse to repent.
B. The kingdom of God demands my obligations. Christ is our Shepherd. His pastors are also called shepherds. They are to take good care of the flock. And when the Pharisees and Herodians came to Jesus, Jesus asked for a denarius, a common coin in that day. We use our money to support the government and the church. We pay our taxes and we pay our church dues.
Both are commanded by God. Says St. Paul in Romans 13 – “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Vv.6-7) And again in 1 Corinthians 16 “On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” (V.2) Paul told the people to pay their taxes and also their church dues. All of this belongs to God. We are only stewards of His gifts.
I am a citizen in two kingdoms, the kingdom of earthly power, my government, and the kingdom of God, my church. I owe each everything I have. It all is a gift of God and belongs to Him anyway. Christians are sojourners and pilgrims in this world (I Peter 2:11).
While our true citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20), we are to be ever mindful of our responsibilities to the nation in which we live. As we love God and serve our neighbor we are witnesses of Christ in this world. That, my friends is the definition of missions – Love God, serve your neighbor – become a sermon in shoes.
Passive Sentences –10%
Reading Level – 7.3