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October 16, 2011 Luke 10:1-9, 17a Matthew 22:15-22 'In the Image oI God¨
Dr. Ted H. Sandberg
'Politics makes strange bedIellows,¨ or so we`re told. There`s no doubt that Charles Dudley
Warner`s political observation is correct when we look at the conIrontation Jesus had with the
representatives Irom the Pharisees and the Herodians. Having the Pharisees and Herodians join
together to attack Jesus would be like having Nancy Pelosi and Michele Bachmann working
together against a common Ioe, whoever that would be. It would be like having Rush Limbaugh
and Keith Olbermann united Ior a common purpose. The Pharisees and Herodians must`ve really
been worried about Jesus Ior them to put aside their monumental diIIerences to go aIter Jesus.
The Pharisees, as I`ve said beIore, were the liberals oI the day. You and I may not see them that
way today considering all the things Jesus said against them. They were, however, the reIormers,
the strong advocates Ior making the Judaic Law more accessible to the people, and getting rid oI the
Romans on religious grounds. They were the ones who believed in heaven, a very liberal belieI Ior
The Herodians, on the other hand, weren`t nearly as religious. They too wanted the Roman
authorities out, but they proposed a political solution. They wanted an heir to King Herod to lead a
revolt against Rome and to come into power. The Herodians would`ve wanted the Romans out, but,
more than likely, only so that they could come back, or get, into power. They didn`t want any
itinerant preacher/teacher stirring the people up in such a way that maybe things would change in
ways they didn`t want, or in ways in which they wouldn`t gain more power.
These two antithetical groups got together to get rid oI Jesus by setting up what they must`ve
thought was the perIect trap. 'Tell us, then, what you think,¨ they said to Jesus. 'Is it lawIul to pay
taxes to the emperor, or not?¨ No matter how Jesus answered their question, they thought they had
him. II he said, 'Pay your taxes,¨ they had him because the Roman government was hated by the
people. To pay taxes to Rome would`ve meant tacitly condoning Rome`s authority, and that
wouldn`t have set well with the majority oI the people. Any religious person would`ve then
opposed Jesus, because only a Jewish government had the religious right to collect taxes. Jesus
would`ve lost a great deal oI his popular support with the people which would`ve removed Jesus as
a threat to the Jewish authorities.
On the other hand, iI he said 'Don`t pay taxes,¨ then the Roman IRS would`ve been on him quicker
than Baptists suggest a potluck dinner, and he`d have been arrested Ior speaking against the
government, and Ior inciting civil unrest. Either way, the Pharisees and Herodians thought Jesus
would be in trouble with someone, and out oI their way.
We know, however, how Jesus avoided his enemies` clever trap. He was probably on guard the
minute they came up to him and said, 'Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way
oI God in accordance with truth, and show deIerence to no one; Ior you do not regard people with
partiality.`¨ Even you and I can pick up that kind oI Ialse Ilattery. Jesus certainly would`ve known
these people were up to no good.
'Jesus, aware oI their malice, said, Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me
the coin used Ior the tax.` And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, Whose head is
this, and whose title?` They answered, The emperor`s.` Then he said to them, Give thereIore to
the emperor the things that are the emperor`s, and to God the things that are God`s.`¨
Jesus had a great advantage in this encounter with the Pharisees and Herodians that he wouldn`t
have today. The Pharisees and Herodians knew their Bible, our Old Testament. For many today,
Jesus` suggestion that we owe to the government that which has the government`s image on it and
to God that which has God`s image on it, that wouldn`t mean anything to them. The Pharisees and
Herodians knew immediately what Jesus meant.
Jesus based his argument on one oI the most meaningIul verses in the whole Bible, Iundamental Ior
most all theology, and one oI my Iavorite verses. In Genesis 1:26, when God was creating the
world, we read: 'Then God said, Let us make humankind in our image, according to our
likeness.`¨ II coins had the likeness oI the emperor on them, and thereIore belonged to the
government, all humanity had God`s likeness, God`s image imprinted on and in them, and all
humanity thus belonged to God.
Jesus` teaching is clear on the matter oI taxes owed to government. As much as we may dislike
paying taxes, we have a responsibility to do so. A coin is a very Iitting symbol oI government`s
role in our liIe. We may not think oI it very oIten, but much oI what our government does is
symbolized by money. Think how diIIicult it would be iI we had to trade our work Ior goods, or
our goods Ior work everyday, without money to help us accomplish it. Because what we produce
isn`t always needed by those around us, or needed right when we`ve produced it, money allows us
to store the Iruits oI our labor, or trade with those who may never want what we`re able to produce.
By standardizing our monetary system, our government makes our culture and our society possible,
and thus, the money we pay in taxes represents , the ways the government goes about serving and
protecting us. We thereIore owe our taxes to the government, though the latest Iigure Ior tax
compliance in this country is only about 80°, much too low.
But we owe our government more. I Peter reads, 'For the Lord`s sake accept the authority oI every
human institution, whether oI the emperor as supreme, or oI governors, as sent by him to punish
those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. Honor the emperor.¨
What does it mean to honor the emperor, or honor our government? Books have been written to
answer that question, but I`ll suggest 3 elements to the answer: loyalty, respect, and participation.
First, we owe our government our loyalty, our allegiance. We don`t always have to agree with it,
but we owe it a Iair hearing. To be loyal to our government is to deIend the principals Ior which it
stands, and celebrate its existence.
Secondly, we owe our government our respect. To respect means to obey its laws and do our duty
and carry out responsibilities as citizens. As we know, our government works on our respect oI the
law. We don`t have nearly enough police and armed Iorces to Iorce everyone to obey the law. In
other countries, laws are enIorced by people turning one another in to the police when a crime is
committed, but we don`t do that either. Our system works because we all individually decide to
obey the laws and do our duty. II we Iail to do that, as was the case during Prohibition, the law
becomes unenIorceable. II we don`t respect our country, the system breaks down.
Finally, we owe our country our participation. This may be though serving in the government in
some capacity, or through paying taxes, through writing letters to our leaders, or simply through
voting. Our country works because people get involved participate in the system.
All this isn`t to say that we should be uncritical oI our government. Back in the 60's and early
70's, many opposed to the demonstrations against our involvement in Vietnam used to quote,
whether they knew it or not, Carl Schurz when they said, 'Our country, right or wrong.¨
UnIortunately, they didn`t Iinish the quote because Schurz went on to say, 'When right, to be kept
right; when wrong; to be put right.¨ To honor country is to call it to its highest ideals. We as
Christians have a duty to the Emperor in return Ior the privileges that the 'rule oI the Emperor¨
But the Christian is even more than a citizen oI a human government. A Christian is a citizen oI
heaven. There are matters oI religion and oI principle in which the responsibility oI the Christian is
to God. Just as we as citizens owe our government certain things, even more, we owe God. Indeed,
we owe God all that we have. The image oI God isn`t on a coin in our pocket, but is on us, and
through us, and within us. We`ve been created in the image oI God, and thus belong only to God.
All we have and all we are belongs to God.
Thus, we owe God ,t e,8t what we owe our country our money, our loyalty, our respect, our
participation. People who`d never dream oI Iailing to pay their taxes, drop a dollar or two in the
oIIering plate, and think they`ve given to God in proportion to what they`ve received. Now, in
some cases, this may be true. I know oI some people who didn`t have a dollar or two to spare, but
still gave to God. But Ior most oI us, that`s not the case. We spend our money on many things
which aren`t all that necessary, and then come up a little short when it comes to giving to God,
which can be seen as the greatest responsibility oI all!
We also owe God our obedience in keeping God`s laws. Just as our government`s laws keep
society running smoothly, so God`s laws keep us running smoothly. God`s laws are Ior our good
and Ior the good oI our neighbors. In that sense, they`re not here to keep us Irom doing something,
but to be a lamp unto our Ieet, the light unto our path. We obey God`s law that we might walk in
God`s righteous pathway.
As we owe our country our participation, so we owe God our participation. Because God has
created us, because God sustains us, because God sent God`s only Son, Jesus Christ to live and die
Ior each oI us, because God loves us, we give our selI to God through worshiping God, through
learning more about God`s will and God`s ways, through communicating with God, through sharing
the Good News with others throughout our lives. We can`t say, 'Well, I paid my taxes last year, so
I don`t have to pay my taxes this year.¨ So too, we shouldn`t say, 'I went to church last week, so I
won`t go this week.¨ Our commitment to God, our obligation to God, is a liIetime obligation
The question asked by Jesus` opponents so long ago is still valid today. What do we owe God.
Unlike the government, God doesn`t have a heavenly IRS to keep track oI what we give to God and
what we don`t. And there`s no pages and pages oI regulations that mandate what we`re to give to
God. 10°, a tithe, is suggested but only a suggestion. For some, it may be too much, Ior others too
little. And that`s 10° oI time, talent, as well as treasure. What do we owe God? It`s hard to
answer since, having been created in God`s image, Jesus teaches us that , we have, , we are
belongs to God.
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