“Render unto God the Things That are God’s”
The Rev. Leonard Oakes, Vicar
Who among you do not pay taxes to the government? We are all aware that if we fail to pay the government what is due to them, the amount can be compounded, worse is they take away all you have, and you may even go to prison for evading them. The Government need funds to defray expenses for its various programs.
With God, all He need from us is to love and be loved; know how to give thanks and recognize that He provides everything for you. Share what you have and glorify His name.
But the Pharisees came to Jesus with another plan and pretended to be asking a sincere question of faith. “Should we pay taxes to the Romans?” The question was a legitimate one. After all the Romans were unjust and their government enslaved people all over the world. Should God’s people support such a government?
But our wise friend Jesus knew this was a trap. If he said they should not pay the taxes, then they would go to the Romans and have him arrested for treason. If on the other hand he said they should pay taxes, they could use that against him. They could say that he did not have enough faith in God, or that he was little more than a tax collector in religious clothing.
Jesus used a reversed tactic and turned the question back on the questioners. “Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” It was a Roman coin with the name and image of the emperor on it. So, Jesus said, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” He could have stopped there because he had answered the question. But he went on to say, “and render unto God the things that are God’s”
Could you repeat that after me: “Render unto God – the things that are God’s.” That is the main point! You see that is what these religious leaders were not doing. They were not giving God what was due to God. They were serving themselves and not the Almighty.
This being a stewardship awareness month, I am supposed to tell you that God is due one tenth of your income. In other words that you should tithe or regularly give 1/10th of the money you make to the church. That tenth or tithe belongs to God. Render unto God the tithe that is God’s!
But then this approach got me thinking. Did you know that the Pharisees tithed? In fact, they were probably the best tithers among God’s people. Jesus said that they even tithed herbal products of mint and dill and cumin. (Matthew 23:23). Does anyone here have an herb garden? Then why don’t you give a tenth of what you grow in to the church? What about your vegetable gardens? I love fresh corn and tomatoes! Elizabeth Reece shared with you fruits from her backyard last month. Yesterday, Lilibeth Cudiamat gave me a bag of persimmons she harvested from her backyard in Stockton. What about giving your time to other things that the church need without being asked? Bernard Dayrit and Alan Del Rosario were up in the ladder to clean the front window glasses. Malissa Mitchell and Marlene Ferrer were busy cleaning up in and out of the church in preparation for the health and wellness fair and Sunday service, while Becky Aquino and our health and wellness volunteers prepared lunch for the people. Mario Dayrit and Marlon Pailano consistently pick up bread from Lucky’s every Friday, Saturday and Sunday for this and every community, while Elois, Luz, Cherrie, Lois and Alicia pick up bread and pastries from Starbucks and Noah’s Bagel for the same. Janus and Francis come all the way from San Mateo and San Jose to give their time and talent to teach music to our children for free. Mr and Mrs Lagunte come all the way from Modesto for a two hour drive every Sunday to join us in thanking God in this community. Many of you share your kitchen and office supplies for church use. And many more that each of you give to glorify God including of course your pledges to keep the financial part of the Church going.
My point is the Pharisees were good tithers, and yet Jesus told them they still needed to render unto God the things that are God’s. So, Jesus was not talking about tithing. Don’t get me wrong. You should tithe, but ultimately this passage is not about something as meaningless as money. Coins and taxes are involved in the story, but in the end Jesus is talking about much more than mere money or governmental revenue. If we are to render unto God things that are God’s, we would give everything to God. Again, I am not talking about money! I am talking about giving our entire lives to God.
Last week, Rev. Rebecca reminded me that stewardship is not only about money, it is also about time, talent, and other resources our hearts could give to glorify God, including being alive and well!
I ask everybody to take a deep breath with me: In — and out. In — and out. God gave you that breath. Every single breath you take is a gift from God. So, every breath we take is due to God. We should use every breath to serve God. How many of you woke up this morning? Assuming I didn’t put you to sleep you should all have your hand raised, except if your shoulders are aching. God gave you this day. So, if we render unto God the things that are God’s, then this day should be dedicated to serving him. And tomorrow, when you wake up, that day will be a gift from God and it should be dedicated to God.
Stewardship is ultimately not about money. It is about giving your life to Christ. Ultimately how much you pledge to the church or give to the church next year will not change your standing before God. What would really make me happy is if everyone in this church vowed to render unto God every day and every breath to serve the Almighty. And I assume that if we all did give ourselves totally to God, it would influence many things, our participation in the life and work of the church, including our offerings.
Christian stewardship is about recognizing that everything we have is from God, including the ecology we live in and those who live around us. And as Christians we are called to seek to use everything we have and everything we are to serve God. That means our time, our talents – everything. We will be asking you to turn in an estimate of the money you will give to the church and we will use those figures to construct a budget for next year. But ultimately that doesn’t matter – that is just an administrative necessity. Ultimately what’s important is not how much money you give, but who you serve each day.
May we serve God with goodness of heart, with purity of intention and with love of virtues that make this world a better place to live in. Amen.