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“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 25:21 NRSV).
The religious scholars knew that they had Jesus right where they wanted him. They asked, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” (Matt 22:17 NRSV). The answer appears to be a very easy answer to the question which the Pharisees asked. It actually was not easy, it was brilliant. Brilliant in the sense that Jesus responded in a way that revolutionized thought in the ancient day. To answer either yes or no would create a sociological and political response that would have shifted the focus from Jesus the Savior of the World, to Jesus the Political Insurrectionist. The answer to the carefully crafted question left everyone stunned and speechless.
According to those who govern our society, we are to give our taxes for the betterment of our society while according to Jesus we are to give God our hearts. Now, I know there is just as much unrest in the political arena of today as there was in the time of Jesus. The issues regarding these unsure and very frightening times are incredibly real and at times overwhelming.
What I am led to in Jesus’ answer is the part where I am to give God “the things that are God’s.” That is easier said than done; for many times I cannot release the worries and concerns I have regarding the things belonging to the emperor. We tend to focus primarily on worries like “How am I going to make it to the next pay check?” or “How am I going to find a job?” or “I was going to retire in the next few years, but I no longer have the financial resources.”
In other words, we worry so much about what we are to give to the emperor that we forget about our gifts to God. Hear the good news (gospel). We are the gift. Our hearts are the most important offerings that we make. Who else brings a living witness to others about the miraculous works of God? We are the messengers of God’s gift of salvation. It is our duty to share the Word; it is our gift to each other.
Jesus reminds us to give our leaders and world what we are required to give, but do not let that be our only focus. Give God what God requires. The Divine in return blesses the gift and the giver. We are to pray without stopping, love each other with our whole beings and we are to praise God for all of the wonderful blessings that have come to us.