We continue in our Light for the Way series. Our goal is to deepen our focus on scripture. Each week we’ll provide an examination of a biblical reading, with attention to our shared service to older adults. Thank you for engaging with this series as we draw closer to our Christian Ministry value, and our pledge to seek wisdom through prayer and reflection.
By Pastor Chris Wheatley, Senior Director of Pastoral Care Programming
Jesus said, "Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose image is this? And whose inscription?"
"Caesar’s," they replied.
Then he said to them, "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s."
— Matthew 22:19-21
"Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s." This short, simple, out-of-context quote has had more impact on American political thought than almost any other. It is used when talking about the limits of government authority, the legitimacy of taxation, the separation of Church and State and even the right to protest. It has been taken very seriously for our entire history as a nation.
Which is why it is so strange that as actually presented in the Bible, it was an answer to a question never asked seriously in the first place. Remember that in all three gospels where this story is found, those asking Jesus whether one should pay imperial taxes are doing so in order to trap him. They aren’t actually making a decision; they want him to say something they can use against him. In fact, his accusers end up lying about it at his trial anyway, making his actual answer meaningless to them.
But perhaps not to us. Because after Jesus is done answering the false question of his enemies, by pointing out the foolishness of trying to keep the Empire away from money that bears an idolatrous picture of the emperor next to an imprint declaring him to be a god, Jesus answers a question that was not asked. "Give back to Caesar that which is Caesar’s." He made these coins. He printed lies on them and made them into idols to himself. They were always his. "But give back to God what is God’s."
That is the answer to a far more critical question, one that each of us needs to know. Because even when other people, groups, or powers claim something on this earth, it still belongs to its Creator.
Caesar minted the coin. God created the silver.
What does this mean for us? It is a reminder of why we are here. Sometimes it can feel like our jobs serve a multitude of masters. We follow policies from the health department. We fill out paperwork for Medicare. We cook for the residents. We make phone calls for the families. And all of these are true.
But just as true: We do all of it for our Heavenly Father. PHS, at its heart, is a ministry to give God glory by serving elders. And no matter what we do, big or small, for this person or that organization, we do it to return Christ’s love back to him.
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