This is my least favorite time of year. I dread Tax Day with a passion, mostly because we are pathetic in our record keeping. So every year, I have to recreate the previous year’s financial activity so I can file my taxes. It’s painful, and causes no small amount of stress in our marriage. But… tetelestai … it is finished… paid in full (actually, I’m getting a refund :). But reflecting on these things, I offer the following.
Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
I play computer games on-line (a LOT). One of the things I find appealing is the social aspect of working together as a team to accomplish a goal. When a group “clicks”, it’s very satisfying. And… I like to blow things up.
But there are the other people on-line. The folks who need to hear themselves talk to validate their self-worth. Mostly, I ignore them, but on occasion I feed the trolls and engage in… interesting… conversations.
One particular player I’m thinking of is a piece of work. He tries to validate himself by bragging about his sexual conquests, making lame, degrading jokes at other players’ expense, and similar middle-school fare. The only thing I can think about him is that he is playing the wrong game, by the wrong rules.
In the time of Jesus, the Jews were looking anxiously for a Messiah. Chafing under Roman rule, they longed for the glory days (at least the stories they had been told) of David and his kingdom, and Solomon, when Israel was a nation to be reckoned with. They were ready for the kingdom to be restored.
But Jesus didn’t quite fit their expectations, In fact, he threatened the status quo, and the leaders feared for their power. So they tried to set traps for him, to trick him into saying something that Rome would find offensive, so they could eliminate him and keep things the way that they were.
It was in this context that the experts in the law sought to trap Jesus by asking him if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. Of course, someone who was trying to restore the kingdom of David would oppose the oppression of Rome. And someone who submitted to Rome would be rejected by the people. They had to be impressed by their cleverness.
But Jesus’ response, besides defeating their clever plans, exposed a whole other truth that they were not prepared to accept. They were playing the wrong game, by the wrong rules.
The kingdom of God is not of this world. Surely, God is sovereign, and his rule extends into this world. But the kingdom of Heaven that Jesus was proclaiming was not an earthly kingdom, and it is not measured by material things. People who chase after those things have missed the boat.
The kingdom of God is any place where God is honored, served, and worshiped as king and as lord. This earth, this world system, the power and authority structures, the wealth and all the things valued by men are all going to pass away. And those who chase after them are playing the wrong game. By the wrong rules.
Let Caesar have his due. It’s all going to burn anyway. But whoever lays up for himself treasures in heaven will not be disappointed.