God is with us in Word and Sacrament

The Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity

The Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity

Matthew 22:15–22

+ IN NOMINE IESU +

The Pharisees seek to entrap Jesus. The trap is in the question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?” That is: Is it in keeping with God’s law to pay taxes to the government? The thinking is that if Jesus says, “Yes,” then He has betrayed His people because on the coin for the tax the emperor, Caesar, is said to be the son of god. If He says, “No,” then He has betrayed the government and can be cited for inciting insurrection. But our Lord, instead of stepping into the trap, turns the tables on them. He asks His own question. He says, “Show me the coin for the tax.” So they give Him a denarius. Then He asks them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” And not expecting that the tables are turned, they gladly answer, “Caesar’s.”

The Lord catches them with their own trap. He hoists them with their own petard. “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” In other words, give to Caesar that which has Caesar’s image and inscription on it. And give to God that which has God’s image and inscription on it.

Now, we tend to stop at the “Render unto Caesar” part. And we tend not to like that part because that means we actually do need to pay taxes. It means that we actually do need to honor our government, as we learn in the Fourth Commandment. And pray for it. It means even that we need to give our lives, if called upon, in just wars and just causes, as many veterans have. This is what we owe our government, this is our duty to the government according to God’s Word. It is our duty to pay taxes. It is our duty to honor it, and even lay our lives down for it if called upon so to do in a just war.

But we don’t usually go the next step and ask: “What does render unto God that which is God’s mean?” We don’t ask: “What does have God’s image and inscription upon it?” You may recall from the creation of Adam and Eve that God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” And that from the beginning, God inscribed upon their hearts His Word and His Law. In other words, you are to render yourselves unto God. That is what is His because that is what has His image and inscription on it. You are to render your hearts in faith and trust, forsaking all others, in that God. That He, and only He, can save us. Only He can deliver us from our sin, from death, and bring us to everlasting life. Render unto God that which belongs to God. Yourselves. Believe and trust in Him. Look to Him for all good and blessing. Call upon Him in every trouble and need.

But what we tend to do, because of the frailty of our own flesh, is to render unto Caesar that which belongs to God. We put our trust in princes and the governments of this world, as if this is all that matters. We trust in our government oftentimes more than we trust in God Himself. We look to it for every good and blessing. We look to the government and think that so long as it isn’t illegal according to the laws of the state, then it must be good. We act as though everything hangs upon the next election. Every election cycle, we wring our hands, thinking that if only we can elect the right guy, everything will be alright. We get behind those whom we think are electable instead of those who are good, regardless of party, and good according to God’s Word. We trust more in this present world, and the princes of it, more than we do in Him. We have rendered unto Caesar that which belongs to God. Forget not what St. Paul wrote in our Epistle: “our citizenship is in heaven.” Do not put your trust in princes, in a son of man in whom there is no salvation. Your faith and trust do belong to the government. Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, and unto God that which belongs to God.

But our Lord Jesus Christ came as the image of the invisible God, and He rendered unto His Father that which is His Father’s. He rendered everything, not sparing even His own life, so that you could be reconciled to your God in heaven. So that you would truly be His Children. So that you citizenship would be in an everlasting kingdom, not in the kingdoms of this world that will perish when this world perishes. He gave His life, He suffered upon a cross, He marked you with that cross in Holy Baptism, He feeds you with the body and blood that He gave upon that cross. So that you would be His, and that you would live in His kingdom. Put your trust in that prince: the Prince of Peace, the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords. Render unto God that which is God’s. Believe and trust in Him only, for He only is God, and in Him only is salvation.

Do not be anxious. There has never been a better time to be Christian, to be a mother or a father, to raise children. For God is still God. He is still the God of heaven and earth. And Christ is still risen. He is still your Father, your Brother, and your Friend. Trust in Him. Trust His Word and promises. And render unto Him what is His. Amen.

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