Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Rating: GT
Matthew 22:15-22
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s. The reign of the emperor is transitory. So, give to the emperor the things that are transitory. The last 4 weeks have certainly demonstrated just how transitory are the things we give to the government, and to the stock market, and to the bank… here today, gone tomorrow, transitory.

So… what are “the things that are God’s” ? You know what really bugs me about this story, what really gets under my skin? It’s not so much that the Herodians and the Pharisees’ disciples set out with a trick question for Jesus. That’s not nice, but I understand it. It’s a very human thing to do. Trying to trap an opponent with a no-win question is something we see a lot of; it’s something that I freely confess that I’ve done, from time to time, and I’m not proud of it, but I get it and I’m in no position to judge. What irritates me is that once Jesus gives his answer, they go away. I’m left here saying, “wait, wait! Make him explain that last part!”

Really. The first part is so clearly laid out. Jesus says, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he says, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s.” Great. He’s holding the coin. Very clear. Good.

Give to God the things that are God’s. OK, yes, absolutely… but… what does that mean? Can’t we get a little visual aid for this? It seems pretty important.

I am so profoundly grateful that I am not alone in this whole trying-to-be-a-Christian thing. Community and conversation: I do not know where I’d be without them. My brothers Paul and Timothy have some words of instruction, in their letter to the church in Thessalonia, in which they point out that community’s

• work of faith
• labor of love
• steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ

Hope. Labor. Work.
These are the things that are God’s. Our hope, our labor, and our work.
Where does your hope reside? Is your hope in Jesus Christ, or in someone else? Is it mostly in Jesus, with a little hope set aside in a hedge fund, just in case? Where does your hope reside?

Is your labor made of love, or of something else? Is your labor creative, or is it fearful? Is it in the service of life? Is your labor an expression of the right here, right now reign of God?

Hope + labor = work of faith.

Faith is work. I’m going to talk plain, brothers and sisters. Faith is work. Faith is what we do. Faith is getting out of bed in the morning and doing the work that is given us to do, and lying down again at the end of the day, and going to sleep so we can get up and do it all again tomorrow.
Our lives are a work of faith, made up of labor and hope.

As we go through this week, let’s ask ourselves: Where is my hope? What is my labor made of? Our lives are a work of faith. To whom is that work given? To a transitory emperor? or to God?

Give to God the things that are God’s.

Our hope, and our labor, and the resulting work of faith: Whose name, and title, and image are on the currency of your life?

Your hope. Your labor. Your life.


yours in the struggle,


At 6:57 PM, Blogger ASSHOLE BOYFRIEND said...

Amen Max.


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