What do I owe? 

Posted on 15 Nov 2020, Pastor: Randy Sturzenbecher

We are posting the Sermon here because of audio problems on Sunday.

Trinity 23 Sermon   November 15th, 2020

What do I owe? 

In the Name of +Jesus+ Amen.

I was really hoping by the time I preached this sermon to you we would know definitively, who our next president would be. I would know where the battle lines should be drawn, and what things we have to fight to change or keep. 

After studying the Gospel for today I realized a very fatal and sinful flaw in my thinking.  Many times I view the government as my enemy, something I have to be protected from. The Gospel reading for today clearly teaches us otherwise.  Earthly Government is a good gift from God, just like the gift of family and the gift of the Church.   3 estates we function in all with the same purpose.   To promote and keep order.  

Understanding earthly Government as a good gift from God really helps us clarify what do we owe to our Government.  It helps us understand what we owe to our leaders.   It helps us understand our Christian responsibilities no matter who the president is.   It does not matter if you like or dislike the person holding the office of president or the party that is in control. There are things, as God’s Baptized children we owe our leaders. 

You may remember, 4 years ago after President Trump was elected there were many people who used the phrase, “not my president”.  They refused to honor the man in the office, or the office itself.  It would not surprise me if we see the same comments again, no matter who is finally declared President. 

My friends,……that disrespect and refusal to honor those in authority over us is a sin. You have the right to not like the man or the woman in any elected office, but you do not have the right to dishonor the person or the office.  

In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus briefly touches on this very topic.  It is no surprise when the Pharisees want to trap Jesus they bring up the topics that raise tempers and divides friends and family alike.  Tell us, then, (Jesus),  what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”  Remember they did not really want an answer as much as they wanted a way to trap Jesus.  They wanted something that would seal the deal of His arrest and lead to His execution. In spite of their goading, Jesus did not bite.  

Jesus did not engage them in the foreign policy of Caesar.  He did not debate unfair taxation or political reform.  But He did, very clearly draws a line that helps us see government and elected officials as a gift given to us.  Jesus says “Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesars”. 

There are things we owe to the government that rules, protect, and provides for us.  The 4th commandment is clear.  “Honor your father and your mother.  We should fear and love God so that we do not despise or anger our parents and other authorities but honor them, serve and obey them, love, and cherish them. 

As Christians God’s law demands we honor the authority placed over us.   That works well when the person in the office agrees with me.  But not so well when my investments plummet.  It works well when my personal independence is championed. But not so well when personal independence does not value what God values. 

Give to Caesar what is Caesar means, pay your taxes.  Serve on Jury duty!  It means to pray for all elected officials.  It means giving them the benefit of the doubt and not running off to dwell in conspiracy theories. 

The government is not your Savior, nor is it meant to be,  but it is a gift,…….. that God uses to keep order and provide for His people.    Our leaders are sinful men and women that will not always lead guided by God’s Word.  Policies will be set that will not be fair or just.  All the more reason we honor them by praying for them.

Whenever we bring up the topic of Government and what we owe our leaders the question also comes up, what do we do if the Government makes a law that contradicts God’s law? What happens if our government passes a law that demands abortion after 2 children, or makes euthanasia mandatory after 75?  We disobey that law.  We are to follow God, not man.   When we do that we also know there will be earthly consequences for our disobedience.   In all things, good and bad, we trust that God will sustain us and keep His promises of forgiveness and eternal life to us.  

When Jesus says “Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s He answers the Pharisees’ questions about paying taxes He teaches us Government, and ruling authorities are good gifts from God.

Right after Jesus says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars’ He also says, “Give unto God what is Gods’”.  

If we owe the government that is full of sinful men and women, honor and respect, what do we owe to God who is just, holy, eternal, all-knowing, and loving?  God, Himself tells us.  “Be Holy as I am holy”.   That is what we owe God.  When you talk about the President, be holy, and do not sin.   When you are talking to your friends about politics or religion, be holy and do not sin. 

We owe our Good Gift-giving God a debt we can never ever repay,…….. so He pays it for us.  He sends Jesus into our world and puts His own sinless Son under the authority of the Government lead by sinful people.   A death sentence was delivered and Justice was served, so every debt we owe to God would be paid in full.   

It is finished, your sin, your debt all paid, willingly by Jesus.  His holiness gifted to you.  And because of that what we give to God is not out of obligation.  It is not penance for a bad day. We give to God out of love and trust even when we can’t see how this situation could work out for good.   

After Adam and Eve elected to eat from the tree they were warned against they were ushered out of the Garden of Eden.  An angel was placed at the entrance with a flaming sword to keep them from ever entering again.  God looks like a vengeful, punishing God until we realize He kept them out of the garden because the tree of life was there.   If they had eaten from that tree, they would live forever infected with sin.  In God’s great love He does what they don’t understand,     to save them.  

There is a lot of division about the way the next president will lead us.  Even in these things we know God has given us this leader.  We trust that God’s will be done.   His good and gracious will be done through the gift of government.  We honor our leaders, we respect the office they hold.   We pray for them. 

What do we owe that God, who walks on the water, calms the wind-driven sea, casts out demons, and drives out death itself, We owe Him everything and He expects nothing from us that He does give to us first.  

God gives us a Savior in Jesus, He gives us eyes that see our sin and repent.  He gives us a trust that clings to him even when we can not see the good in His Good Gifts. 

In the Name of +Jesus+ Amen.

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. 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. 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.