Last Sunday we gathered. As we do. Different folks arrived a bit early and others a little after them. It was good to be around the table (since indeed I had been absent the week prior!) We opened in prayer. And then we shifted our rhythm a little….not just because it was Pentecost (which is was!) but also because it was youth Sunday & because with youth Sunday we also were saying “THANK YOU” to those who nurture and teach our youth in Sunday School & nursery care!
So there was a question about who had Sunday School. And it was fun to hear the different experiences, some did not have Sunday School until an adult. Those who had been raised Catholic mentioned nuns, and classes/school but not necessarily Sunday School. Others remembered maybe one Sunday School teacher or class — but couldn’t remember the name of that teacher. Turned out — there were a variety of experiences about learning faith and the concept of a Sunday School class. (Who knew?) However, there was something that we were going to do other than just talk about our own experiences (or lack of them) with Sunday School — we took some time to write thank you notes to those who have (for decades) committed to teaching the youth of our church! And then during Worship we gave these notes along with a little gift to our teachers! THANK YOU Sally & Liz & Carol for teaching so well & often — & THANK YOU too Lauren for caring for the littlest of us all — all that ALL y’all do is done with great love & we are so appreciative! THANK YOU!
Then after almost a mini-check in (where we saw whether or not folks had done the homework, and while at least 1 had so many had not — so the homework remained for this last week!) — we went to scripture. Matthew 22:15-22:
Matthew 22:15-22 English Standard Version (ESV)
Paying Taxes to Caesar
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.[a] 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.[b] 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
a. Matthew 22:16 Greek for you do not look at people’s faces
b. Matthew 22:19 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer
From reading the scripture you can see…we are staying with the theme of faith and finances. After listening to the scripture and some silence, some noted how folks were always trying to trick Jesus. There was mention that perhaps the tone with which the people addressed Jesus was mocking — and/or if not mocking — that they were trying to butter him up if you will so that he would make a mistake that they could get him in trouble with. There was a question as to — what exactly makes these people who speak with Jesus hypocrites exactly? Interestingly — one mentioned how this scripture especially led them to pay their taxes, as it seems that Jesus is fairly clear on the matter. Others wonder — is it that clear, what was the tone of voice that Jesus used? Or perhaps more than tone, do we really live our lives understanding, knowing and trusting that EVERYTHING belongs to God? Do we freely give to God exactly what belongs to God? And what does that mean for us anyway? “…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” It seems to me that we might know what belongs to Caesar/government/leadership, but does that really belong to them without God allowing it? Doesn’t all come from God? Doesn’t all belong to God? Then how exactly do we render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and render unto God that which is God’s? (Hey y’all I was reading an article the other day and there was something that struck me as so very pertinent to our conversation & thoughts we might have — I’m going to include it after I share the homework — alright?)
But — y’all…those questions are not the homework for this week. The homework for this week y’all already had a sneak peak at….and it is answering this question:
- What scripture (verse/passage) &/or people and experiences have been most formative in your understanding of finances? Come ready to share y’all…I can’t wait to hear, learn & grow!
And now as promised an excerpt from the article:
I remember talking to another friend about the inherent tensions in giving freely to others. She told me that there will always be needy people and greedy people. It is not our job to decide which is which; that is up to God. We must first do what God asks us to do, then we must leave the rest to God.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear that giving to the poor is what is required of Christians. His type of giving seems outlandish to many today, especially when he said in Matthew, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Give to everyone — even if they don’t say “please” and “thank you.”
Jesus says to give — and to give forgiveness — just as freely as your material goods.
I understand there will always be greedy people who work the system and take advantage of others. We live in a fallen world. But we must have the faith and courage to know that God will use our gifts, not as we intend, but as God intends. Our only job is to release our gifts knowing that God will bless them in ways beyond our imagining, for as Romans reminds us, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
From article, “Address our hesitancy to give freely” in Presbyterians Today — by Rebecca Lister
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater