Damariscotta Baptist Church
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

10/23/11 Sermon

Matthew 22: 15-22

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts….

I’ve been watching the national political scene lately, in particular the Republican candidates for president.

I couldn’t help but see some of the similarities in our scripture with some of the events going on around political campaigns. Lots of talk about taxes along with issues of faith and politics and how faith intersects with the government.
 
Recently one of the Republican candidates, Mitt Romney has come under fire for his Mormon religion.   Some of you may have heard about the Baptist preacher in Texas who while introducing another republican candidate, Rick Perry, commented that Romney’s Mormon faith was a problem in being president.  He believed Romney’s faith is a cult that therefore should disqualify him from being president.  A storm of controversy came about and the question of separation of church and state has been discussed and debated. 

There was also another issue involving Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza who leads in the polls, commented on the abortion issue which led to more discussion about the separation of church and state.  This issue of separation of church and state goes way back. We know it goes back at least 2000 years because we see it in our scripture today. 
 
Jesus is confronted with a question from the Pharisees and Herodians; strange bedfellows who had nothing in common with each other except their hatred for Jesus.

 

The Pharisees of course were the religious legalists who hated Jesus’ message and wanted to discredit him and destroy him. he was cutting into their power.  The Herodians were not religious at all but were suspicious of Jesus’ intentions and how it would affect their own corrupted desires and plans.  So these 2 hypocritical groups concocted this trap (this question of church and state) to try and get Jesus to either claim his loyalty to God or to Caesar by asking whether it was right to pay taxes to Rome.  Their hope was that if he claimed his loyalty to Caesar then of course all of Jesus’ followers would turn against him and come back to the religious ways of thinking of the Pharisees. Jesus would be finished.  If he claims his loyalty to God then he is in hot water with the Roman government and the Herodians can tell the authorities and therefore get him out of their hair politically.  It’s a religious/political trap designed to destroy Jesus and his kingdom movement.

Of course Jesus sees right thru their sinister plot and he answers them in the perfect way.  He has them present a coin and asks them whose inscription is on it.  When they reply Caesar, Jesus plainly tells them that since the coin has Caesars face on it, it clearly belongs to him----so give it to him.  And then Jesus says, what is God’s is God’s. Give it unto Him.

It’s the perfect answer. These hypocrites were shocked and amazed. They thought they had Jesus trapped. But Jesus outfoxed them again.

But even more than that, Jesus also gives us an answer that is very instructive for us in how we live right now in this present world.

As Christians we are dual citizens. We are citizens of heaven as well as citizens in this world.

The apostle Paul reiterates this in his letter to the Philippians when he says that we Christians are citizens of heaven eagerly awaiting Christ’s return.

We live with one foot on earth and one foot in heaven.  And as we wait, we live in this world, giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s while also giving unto God what is God’s.

But what exactly does that mean?

Well it means that as citizens of the world we are loyal to the government in its purpose of providing an orderly society.

We do this not in order to worship the government as the Romans did with Caesar but rather to be loyal for the purpose of giving unto God what is God’s.
 
In other words the government is not abolished so that we can establish some church governed society.
 
Instead the government has its own place which is to simply provide an orderly society in which we can then go about giving unto God what is God’s.  This giving unto God what is God’s is about the Church carrying out its mission. The government does what it does while we go about being containers or vessels of God’s grace to flow thru us to others.  So the government has its place but it’s irrelevant in the issues relating to God.  The government is to have no involvement in imposing a certain religion on others.  In fact, Baptists have at their core foundation of beliefs a principle of religious freedom. This pastor in Texas was skating on thin ice as a Baptist.  As Christians, we should be very leery of any groups who want to push individuals into GOVERNMENT based on a belief that only one faith group alone has all truth. It’s not the government’s job. Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and what is God’s unto God.
 
Now we are very blessed to be citizens of a country where we are able to worship as we please.  While this country is far from perfect it’s still the greatest county in the world to live in. We have a freedom that is precious.  But that freedom is something that has to be protected. It also has to be cultivated.

 

Ronald Reagan once said: Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. It’s not passed on thru the bloodstream.

We have to make sure as Christians that we give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s while giving unto God what is God’s.

And that calls us as Christians to be intentional about limiting the government’s power so that we as the Church can go about God’ mission to us to go and make disciples and bring about the ways of the kingdom of God.

And that gets us back to the heart of this scripture today.

Again Jesus was dealing with individuals who represent groups that are not favorable to his teachings of the ways of the kingdom.

They were about their own agendas, their own power, conspiring against him out of mistrust, prejudice and hate.

On one side, the Pharisees hid behind their religion while the other was hiding behind their politics.  Neither was about giving unto God what is God’s.

But what exactly is this giving unto God what is God’s?

Giving unto God what is God’s is about us acknowledging that we are his workmanship.

He created us. In fact like Caesar’s image was on that coin, God’s image in on us. In Genesis chapter 1:27 we read that we are made in God’s image.

We are his work, his creation; and we were made for the purpose of doing His work. (Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 2:10) .  That’s why we’re here on this earth.

Our job as human beings is first and foremost about doing the work of God.  And we know what that work looks like because we see it in what Jesus did on this earth. Jesus is God’s visible work.
 
And of course the work that Jesus did was about feeding the poor, healing the sick, clothing the hungry, seeking justice for the oppressed and marginalized, freeing people from sin and bondage from unseen powers.  It’s a wholistic work that includes the physical, emotional and spiritual.
 
 

Now this is our job as Christians in giving unto God what is God’s. We are God’s, we belong to Him and we have a purpose.

Now unfortunately in the United States, we’ve allowed the government to take on this work.  The government has filled a vacuum and we as a society have decided to contract out the work of feeding the poor and healing the sick and clothing the naked.  And as this has happened what we see are people becoming more and more dependent on the government to provide for their needs. And yet many are still disenfranchised; they’re empty and lost.

The problem is that the government is not addressing the whole issue. Nor should they.  That’s the work of the Church. We the Church have the whole message of freedom from sin and the transforming power of Jesus Christ that can change your life inside and out.

Again that’s our job; not the governments.  And yet in our world of separation of church and state we’ve somehow become gun shy in sharing our faith with others.
 

And it’s so unfortunate because one of the privileges we have in this country is the fact that we can share our faith. You won’t get thrown in jail for sharing about Jesus Christ.

But because we are not giving unto God what is God’s we are failing to help people into a relationship with Christ.
 

Tony Campolo, found himself seated beside the Pennsylvania governor at a state prayer breakfast.  In the course of conversation the governor said that he was sympathetic toward Christianity but not personally committed.  Campolo asked, "Why not?"  The governor replied, "Well, to tell you the truth, no one ever invited me to commit."  Campolo said, "I'm inviting you." within five minutes that governor had committed his life to Christ………………………….

We are imprinted by God, made by God to do God’s work which is to share the grace we’ve been given to others.

Our God-given purpose is to be the visible work of Jesus in this world.

That means we are to be focused in growing our relationships with others, intentionally serving their needs, which is our calling (not the governments) while also  being in a place to share with others the life changing power of hope that comes thru a relationship with Christ.
 

It’s a complete work that we the Church are called to; not the government. And it’s something we must recapture because if we don’t, the consequences can be dismal.

I’m reminded of the illustration of the church in Russia before communism. The church was an important part of people’s lives.   But as the Soviet Union government under Stalin came into power the Church became oppressed and irrelevant. It became irrelevant because it was no longer allowed to be about the work of God which is in the complete physical, emotional and spiritual needs of people.  As the government became the answer to people’s needs, the Church became irrelevant and eventually non-existent………..

The work of giving unto God what is God’s is the gift we have been given as Christians.  Because of the grace that God has given to us, because He loves us and blesses us and has chosen us as citizens of heaven, God is touching us to become citizens of this earth in order to be vessels of His grace to others.
 

Now here at DBC we have different ways you can live out your dual citizenship, giving unto God what is God’s.  We have a Divorce Care ministry where you can be in relationship with people going thru a loss in their life.  We have a Prayer shawl ministry where we can be in a place to give a gift and grow a deeper relationship.  We have the ecumenical food pantry where we can serve others and build relationships.  Cindy is going to share with you in a moment about a new ministry that helps families in need at Christmas that also has a personal involvement.

I want to invite you to listen to God and see if He calls you to any of these or maybe something new. God has a purpose for you to go about giving unto God what is God’s………………

In closing today, we’re being reminded to examine the imprint of what is Caesar’s and what is God’s.

Jesus is calling us today to remember our citizenship, to remember the imprint on us so that we will go about his purpose of bringing forth the kingdom in this world that he began.

One day every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

In the meantime, let us give unto Caesar, simply what is Caesar’s, as we more importantly embrace our calling to give unto God what is God’s----



In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen