Discerning the Necessary Things

Discerning the Necessary Things

Friends, I invite you to share your comments on these Afterthoughts at the bottom of this web page. I would love hear what you think!  brad+

In the sermon on Sunday, I focused on the reading from Exodus.

In it, Moses is asking God to be present with them (the Children of Israel).

Even though they were “stiff-necked”

and had complained about God’s provisions for them.

In spite of all of this, Moses asks God to show up.

And God does.

As God always does.

We need to only to ask.

Just like Jesus’ words from Matthew 7:7-11,

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

We need to ask.

Questions can reveal what we think about life and what is important.

Like in the Gospel reading from Sunday.

A question is asked about paying taxes to the emperor.

This was a loaded question and was intentional asked by the religious elite.

Answer one way, alienate your followers.

Answer another way and get on the bad side of the authorities

(both the Romans and the religious elite).

Jesus was asked this disingenuous question to entrap Him.

He answered in a way that would call their bluff

and point to a deeper spiritual reality.

One that is important for us to realize too.

Jesus asks for a coin used to pay the taxes in question and asks them.

“Whose head is this, and whose title?”

They answered him and said,

“The emperor’s.”

Then Jesus gives some sage advice for them (and us too).

“Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s.”

You ask about the taxes that the emperor is requiring?

Pay him with the coin that he created.

No drama in that.

But they wanted to make it into something bigger

and pull Jesus into a cultural battle.

They wanted Jesus to be “on their side.”

They wanted Jesus to be against the Romans.

The occupiers.

So they were forcing Him to choose a side.

But Jesus had a perspective outside of their “them vs us” mentality.

And was calling them out on their lack of perspective.

And it gives us good questions to think about.

We know the phrase “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s”

It gets used, at times, as a dismissive response to worldly issues

when we don’t want to deal with them or think they are unimportant.

Much like present day politics.

I have used the phrase multiple times in reference to politics.

It seems useless.

So, give to the government what is the government’s

And though this is mostly the case in regard to this verse,

We can miss the second part:

“And [give] to God the things that are God’s.”

The coins of that day may have had the image of the emperor on it,

But those gathered that day with Jesus bore the image of God.

The imago dei.

“So God created mankind in His own image,
    in the image of God He created them;
    male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27

And it is clear that Jesus was addressing something much deeper.

The Jews.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, the Sanhedrin and others were thinking in “us versus them” terms.

They were squabbling over leftovers.

But they were God’s.

Not the emperor’s.

Created in God’s image.

And they forgot that.

And so they quibbled over little things.

And missed the blessing in their midst.


The Son of God walked in their presence,

and they didn’t realize it because they were fighting over the rule of the Romans.

For the Star Wars geeks,

It is akin to Obi-Wan Kenobi saying,

“These are not the droids you’re looking for.”

It’s a distraction from the important things.

And a dishonor to our created status.

God’s image bearers.

Fighting over things like elections.


Bolstering up arguments to put the other side in their place.

Forgetting that this faith we are called to requires us to be different.

To be the Church.

The ekklesia.

The “called out ones.”

Not the wallowing in the mud ones.

Or the complaining about how unfair it is ones.

Or the ungrateful for the many blessings ones.

Or the I’ll support this when they agree with me ones.

The Called Out Ones.

And called to ones.

Called to love.

And forgive.

To extend grace.

And mercy.

To be the salt and light.

The hands and the feet of Jesus.

And Purveyors of Hope.

In a world that desperately needs it.

And needs to know that they are image bearers too.




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