Bible Readings and Devotion for March 23, 2020
You are encouraged to read these passages from this page or from your personal Bible. After the readings is a devotion based on one or more of the readings.
Here are the references for the readings. Please look these up in your print Bible, your smartphone app Bible, or an online Bible – click passage listing for link to online:
Devotion for March 23, 2020
By Pastor David Tinker
There are frequent accounts in the New Testament Gospel Books (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) of various people asking questions of Jesus. Often these questions are meant to challenge Jesus, or even to get him in trouble with government or religious authorities. This account of a conversation about paying taxes is one which presents a great challenge to Jesus.
We have an account of some Pharisees and Herodians asking Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” This question was a plan “…to entrap (Jesus) in what he said.” The trap was twofold. First, if he said that one should not pay the Romans taxes, then the Roman authorities could arrest him for fostering rebellion. Second, if Jesus said they should pay the Roman taxes, then he would be showing support for the enemies of the Jews. Either way Jesus would be facing riot, arrest, or even death.
What Jesus does is to catch these particular leaders in their own trap, and to teach his hearers of all times something about our life with God. First, Jesus asks the questioners for one of the coins used to pay the tax. They quickly produce such a coin. This is where the hypocrisy of these certain leaders comes out. The coin (see photo below) used to pay the tax was a Roman coin. The Jews also had coins for Temple transactions. The Roman coin included the image of the Emperor Tiberius. Each emperor was a god of sorts. So, those certain Jewish leaders were in possession of a false idol. The coin was a graven image of a false god. This is in direct violation of the Ten Commandments.
Then Jesus answers their question by saying, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” The coin has the image of the false god, the emperor, on the coin. Therefore, use the coin to pay the taxes as required by the occupying empire.
There is so much more to life than that issue, and Jesus points to this in his second part of the answer. “Give…to God the things that are God’s.” Here Jesus takes the scriptures which all Jews would know and accept to point out a greater truth. He points back to Genesis 1:27 which notes, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.” Each one of us is made, in some way, in the image of God. Our whole selves, our whole lives, belong to God. His image is on each of us in some way. We belong to God.
In a greater sense, the work of Jesus on the cross for us gives us even more of a sense about belonging to God. In teaching about the use of our bodies St. Paul notes, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) That price is the death of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. In the most wonderful and beautiful way, we belong to God. He has given his all for us in that Jesus gave his life on the cross for us.
So, we are called upon by the Lord to give to God what belongs to God. Our whole selves belong to God. We are called to give our lives, our actions, our energy, our service, and all that we have and do, to God. A broad approach to how we do this is noted in Colossians 3:17, where Paul notes, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” As we work, rest, play, study, care, etc. we can do it in the name of Jesus. We can “give to God what belongs to God” by working hard, honoring the Lord, loving our neighbors, loving one another, taking rest, keeping connected with God and fellow Christians, speaking honorable regarding God and others, etc. Giving our lives to God something we get to do every day as followers of Jesus.
Here is a YoutTube link for a song based on the truth that we belong to God. I first heard this song in 1985 at a Christian retreat in San Antonio. It is by singer/songwriter James Ward. Click Link.
Loving God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we give you thanks that Jesus has given his full self on the cross for us. Help us, by your Spirit and your Word, to live every day to your glory and for the love of neighbor. We pray this in Jesus’ holy name.