by Pastor Joshua Pfeiffer
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Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s’ (Matthew 22:21).
Often the first question we ask someone doesn’t get to the heart of the matter we’re trying to address. We need to have a follow-up question that can further clarify and uncover the truth.
Concerning this interaction with Jesus in today’s text, a person once observed that there should have been a follow-up question. There wasn’t, of course, because the Pharisees and Herodians weren’t sincerely seeking the truth from Jesus, but were out to entrap him. But for us disciples, Jesus’ teaching on giving to the emperor what belongs to him, and God what belongs to him, invites the obvious next question: ‘What belongs to God?’ Then perhaps Jesus would have answered that question with another question: ‘Whose image is on you?’
Jesus’ mission was not to overthrow the secular government of his time, although they were essentially foreign occupiers of his homeland. The implication of his words here is that disciples of Jesus Christ should acknowledge and respect their governing authorities. One of the practical ways of doing this is to pay one’s taxes. The image of the emperor is on the coin. The government has minted this money as part of their role to keep good order in society. So, respect and support them. Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s.
But when it comes to what belongs to God, remember whose image is on you! You are made in the image of God, and so you belong to him. As Jesus has this discussion, he is on the way to the cross to give his life to redeem you; that is, to buy you back. The price was not gold, silver, or any other coin, but his holy, precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. In Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the kingdom of heaven, in which we are now citizens, has drawn near. Thus, Christians live in a unique relationship to the government, both respecting them and obeying their laws, while also acknowledging an authority far greater to which they, too, are subject.
Heavenly Father, thank you for creating us in your image and for sending your son, our Lord Jesus, to redeem us. Please help us, by your Holy Spirit, to live in a well-ordered relationship to our governing authorities. In Jesus’ name, Amen.