In Matthew, this text is happening during the last few days before Jesus is killed. There’s no time for trivialities. The Pharisees sent their minions along with the Herodians to trap Jesus. Normally, they hate each other, but to trap Jesus they become partners. Together they plan and scheme and spend all kinds of time coming up with a fool-proof plan to discredit Jesus. If he says, “Yes, pay taxes to Caesar,” the Pharisees can condemn him to the crowds as a religious fraud. If he says, “No, don’t pay taxes to Caesar,” the Herodians can have him arrested by Rome for insurrection.
They approach Jesus with disingenuous, empty flattery, and think that this question about taxes will trip him up? You’ve got to be kidding! God incarnate is about to be nailed to a cross. The central piece of God’s entire salvation history is a couple of days away. The redemption of all creation is coming to fruition right now, right in front of them. They think this is important? That this is where their energy is best used? Really?
I’m amazed Jesus answers them at all, considering what he’s getting ready to face. Yeah, pay your taxes. Whatever. Don’t let the emperor’s stuff get in the way of God’s stuff. Don’t let temporary, trivial things get in the way of the main thing.
And Jesus is all about the main thing. God is making everything new: forgiveness is now breaking into sinfulness; hope is breaking into despair; wholeness is breaking into brokenness; life is breaking into death. This is the main thing. God is all about this, and we in this congregation have been created to be part of it. Not only do we experience this among ourselves, but we proclaim the reality of this to the world. We exist as church to be with God in making all things new through forgiveness, hope, wholeness, and life.
Jesus got that, and didn’t seem to get sidetracked from the main thing very often. Certainly not here. Certainly not by the Pharisees and Heriodians. Certainly not by a question about taxes.
For the rest of this month, our council will be working on the 2015 budget. This isn’t just a spreadsheet of how we’re going to spend money; it’s a declaration of how we will live in the image of God, of how we will be part of God’s main thing.
And we will be part of God’s main thing. We will reveal generosity, compassion, and grace. We will proclaim forgiveness, love, and mercy. And quite honestly, doing that as a congregation in our culture involves having a budget. That’s just real. Our council will present an honest, authentic, balanced proposal of how LCM will take part in God’s main thing—that for which we exist.
Today we’re receiving Estimate of Giving cards for 2015. Part of that is to help our council get a better idea of what funds we’ll have for the year. But another part, I think, is more important. It’s the opportunity to think about, to deeply consider, how we will invest in God’s main thing. How we will invest in mercy, grace, compassion; forgiveness, love, and mercy being revealed in our world.
Don’t get all weird because we’re talking about money and pledges in the church. Money is just part of life. Oh well. So give or don’t give, whatever. Turn in a card or don’t turn in a card, whatever. So don’t worry about that. But I do invite you to take this opportunity to consider investing in the main thing. Consider how much you’re willing to invest in revealing God’s love and compassion in our world. Because the world needs more love, compassion, mercy, and grace.
Whether you turn in an Estimate of Giving card today or not isn’t the main thing. Whether you increase or decrease giving isn’t the main thing. God’s forgiveness and grace being shown in the world is the main thing. As a council, I assure you that with whatever money this congregation has, God’s main thing will be our main thing. That will be reflected in the budget we will propose for 2015.
I invite you to take the opportunity to make an investment in that. Give to the emperor the emperor’s things give to God God’s things. Whatever. We no longer let the temporary, trivial things sidetrack us. Because for us in this congregation, the main thing of God’s is the main thing for us.