Good Shepherd Lutheran

Currency of God – Matthew 22:15-22
Politics, anger, and fear makes strange bedfellows. Mortal enemies, the Pharisees and the Herodians, teamed up to try to trap Jesus by asking him whether or not it was lawful to pay Roman taxes. If Jesus said yes, he risked offending and losing his followers. He said no, he risked being charged with insurrection and treason.
The Pharisees were probably chuckling to themselves, thinking they had it all locked up because Rome’s supporters, the Herodians, were there as witnesses. But this question wasn’t just some political trap. It wasn’t just about taxes, the government, Roman occupation of the Jews, or even the separation of church and state. It was about an agenda. The Pharisees and Herodians really didn’t care what his answer was, as long as they could beat Jesus up with it.
It’s no different today, even though the questions aren’t the same. The same tag team is still at work. It’s played out every time we over-simplify complex issues, categorize people, pigeonhole parts of our lives, or try to manipulate Jesus.
For instance: is the LGBTQIA++ lifestyle Biblically lawful? Say yes and you’re a revisionist progressive who denies the authority of Holy Scripture. Say no and you’ll be accused of being homophobic, prejudiced, and denying the gospel’s message of love and inclusivity.
Is abortion permissible? Say yes and you’re a supporter of killing babies who ignores the commandment against murder. Say no and you’re denying a woman’s constitutional rights.
Do you support America’s wars? Say no and you’re unpatriotic and don’t support our troops. Say yes and you’ll have to answer for the violence, death, and destruction that seem so contrary to Jesus’ life and teaching.
In whatever form it takes, the collusion between the Pharisees and the Herodians is about power, manipulation, and agendas. And sadly, it’s not just limited to our political and economic systems. Our churches are victims of it as well.
But Jesus won’t allow himself to be used, manipulated, or co-opted by anyone. Not the Pharisees, the Herodians, or us. Instead, he deepens the question into one about faith and life. He asks whose image is on the tax coin. Who do we belong to?
Sometimes it seems like we belong to Caesar because of taxes, restrictions on freedoms, or harsh treatment for civil disobedience. Or maybe we feel like our job, or our business owns us. Or maybe it’s our families. Sometimes, we even feel owned by our “stuff”.
But that’s not true. God is the one who claims us; God made us in his own image. We don’t – and shouldn’t – belong to anything or to anyone else. “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus isn’t separating the secular and the sacred, spirit and matter, or divine and human. He’s inviting us to hold them together and unite them. When we do that, we become the currency of God in the world.