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The Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost

Option #1: "The Message of the Coin"
Matthew 22:15-21
Rev. Wayne Dobratz, M.Div.

Jesus was able to communicate profound truth in a way that a child could understand it. He used visual aids often. Let’s make a short list: 
              * Lilies of the field, 
              * Birds of the air, 
              * A man going on a long journey, 
              * A Wedding banquet, 
              * Buried treasure, and 
              * A coin.

In today’s text, Jesus is being put to the test. It’s not a test of His knowledge but a test designed to trap him in words the way a bird is caught in a net. The object was to frame a charge against him or to dent his popularity with the people. "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" If He says "yes," the people will turn against Him. If he says "No," they will report him to the Romans as a man leading a rebellion.

Jesus solves the dilemma by asking to see the coin. They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait 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."

Jesus not only answered their question but he also gave us:


1) The obligation to our Caesar--1 Pet 2:13-17; Prov 24:21-22; Jer 29:7; Rom 13:1-7; 1 Tim 2:1-2; Titus 3:1

2) The obligation to our God--Matt 4:10, 22:37, 25:32-40

John MacArthur comments:

Then He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s." And hearing this, they marveled, and leaving Him, they went away (22:21b-22) But instead, Jesus said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s." The profundity of that statement is often missed because of its simplicity. Apodidoômi (render) means to pay or give back, implying a debt. It carries the idea of obligation and responsibility for something that is not optional. Jesus’ answer to the original question (v. 17) was therefore, "Yes, it is entirely lawful and right to pay the poll-tax to Caesar, because that tax is Caesar’s, belonging to the things in his domain."

Jesus did not use the word give, as had the disciples of the Pharisees in asking the question. For them, as for most Jews, paying any tax to Rome was not considered a legitimate duty and was done only with the greatest reluctance. Now Jesus declared that the payment not only was perfectly legal but morally obligatory.

Jesus here declared the divinely ordained obligation of citizens to pay taxes to whatever government is over them. Paying taxes is a legitimate duty of every person, but is specially binding on believers because they are specially bound to God’s Word. Jesus made no qualifying exemptions or exceptions, even under rulers such as the blasphemous, pagan, idolatrous government that in a few days would nail Him to the cross. The government that executed the Son of God was to be paid taxes by God’s people. The state has the divine right to assess taxes that are within its sphere of responsibility and its citizens have the divine obligation to pay them.

By God’s own decree, presidents, kings, prime ministers, governors, mayors, police, and all other governmental authorities stand in His place, as it were, for the preservation of society. To resist government is therefore to resist God. To refuse to pay taxes is to disobey God’s command. By God’s own declaration, to pay taxes to Caesar honors God.

If in an age of pagan despotism and open persecution of the church believers were obligated to pay taxes, how much more obligated are modern Christians who live in free and democratic societies? Regardless of the seemingly spiritual reasons that may be proposed for resisting the payment of taxes, there are none that the Lord recognizes. To argue that paying taxes to a worldly humanistic government is ungodly and unjustified is spurious and contradicts what God Himself says on the subject. His own Word commands unequivocally that taxes are to be paid because, by His divine ordination, they are a part of the things that are Caesar’s. All things belong to God, but He has decreed that a certain amount of that which He entrusts to each person is to be paid to human governments as taxes.

Parallel passage (Matt 22:35): One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: (22:36) "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" (22:37) Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' (22:38) This is the first and greatest commandment. (22:39) And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'

Albert Barnes comments on "giving to God what belongs to God":

Verse 37: Jesus said unto him…--Mark says that he introduced this by referring to the doctrine of the unity of God: "Hear, O Israel! the Lord thy God is one Lord"--taken from Deut 6:4. This was said, probably, because all true obedience depends on the correct knowledge of God. None can keep His commandments who are not acquainted with His nature, His perfections, and His right to command.

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart--the meaning of this is, thou shalt love Him with all thy faculties or powers. Thou shalt love Him supremely, more than all other beings and things, and with all the ardor possible. To love Him with all the heart is to fix the affections supremely on Him, more strongly than on anything else, and to be willing to give up all that we hold dear at His command.

With all thy soul--or, with all thy "life." This means to be willing to give up the life to Him and to devote it all to His service; to live to Him, and to be willing to die at His command.

With all thy mind--to submit the "intellect" to His will. To love His law and gospel more than we do the decisions of our own minds. To be willing to submit all our faculties to His teaching and guidance, and to devote to him all our intellectual attainments and all the results of our intellectual efforts.

"With all thy strength"--(Mark). With all the faculties of soul and body. To labor and toil for His glory and to make that the great object of all our efforts.

Verse 38: this the first and greatest commandment--this commandment is found in Deut 6:5. It is the "first" and greatest of all; first, not in "order of time," but of "importance; greatest" in dignity, in excellence, in extent, and duration. It is the fountain of all others. All beings are to be loved according to their excellence. As God is the most excellent and glorious of all beings, He is to be loved supremely. If He is loved aright, then our affections will be directed toward all created objects in a right manner.

Verse 39: the second is like unto it--Lev 19:18. That is, it resembles it in importance, dignity, purity, and usefulness. This had not been asked by the lawyer, but Jesus took occasion to acquaint him with the substance of the whole law. For its meaning, see the notes at Matt 19:19. Compare Rom 13:9. Mark adds, "There is no other commandment greater than these." None respecting circumcision or sacrifice is greater. They are the fountain of all.

Verse 40: on these two commandments hang …--that is, these comprehend the substance of what Moses in the law and what the prophets have spoken. What they have said has been to endeavor to win people to love God and to love each other. Love to God and man comprehends the whole of religion, and to produce this has been the design of Moses, the prophets, the Savior, and the apostles.

Rev. Wayne Dobratz

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Option #2: "A/The Trinity At Work"
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5a
Rev. Kelly Bedard, M.Div.

A. Faith working: not in fear, for gain, from duty; but nevertheless toilsome

B. Love laboring: toiling with pain, trouble and weariness

C. Hope enduing: cheerfully, constant; not wishful thinking but firm confidence "inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ"

There is work which is inspired by faith. Nothing tells us more about a person than the way in which s/he works. S/he may work in fear of the whip; s/he may work for hope of gain; s/he may work from a grim sense of duty; or s/he may work inspired by faith. His/her faith is that this is his/her task given him/her by God and that s/he is working in the last analysis not for people but for God. Someone has said that the sign of true consecration is when a person can find glory in drudgery.

There is the labour which is prompted by love. Bernard Newman tells how once he stayed in a Bulgarian peasant's house. All the time he was there the daughter was stitching away at a dress. He said to her, "Don't you ever get tired of that eternal sewing?" "Oh, no!" she said, "you see, this is my wedding dress." Work done for love always has a glory.

There is the endurance which is founded on hope. When Alexander the Great was setting out on his campaigns, he divided all his possessions among his friends. Someone said, "But you are keeping nothing for yourself." "O yes, I am," he said. "I have kept my hopes." A person can endure anything as long as s/he has hope, for then s/he is walking not to the night but to the dawn. (Barclay)

I just yesterday visited the Dulac, Louisiana area in wake of Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili. Afterwards my arms ached the likes of when I once conducted a funeral for a baby who had died of SIDS. Pile after pile of household goods and personal belongings lined the highway, waiting for disposition via a huge crane and a large semi. The storms showed no partiality. Both Oak Alley-like estates and shantys alike had piles in front of them. Yet children still played in the streets and my hosts spoke positively of the future. I prayed that, even though unspoken, their hope was "inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ."

When the lady who gave me the tour called today expressing concern for my down-heartedness, I said that I didn't feel bad about feeling so bad. After all, we're supposed to hurt when others hurt. On the other hand, maybe my dejection is because, like with the Thessalonians, there is within all of us the tendency to rest on our laurels/possessions, so to speak, and to be distracted from The Day. Thank God for the reminder!

Rev. Kelly Bedard

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