Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Knowing their evil motives, Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked. “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed (Matthew 22:15-22, Common English Bible).
Very early in my ministry, in fact, I was not even serving as a pastor but waiting for my first appointment. The pastor of my home church asked me to preach one Sunday morning. I went to the Common Lectionary (a three year cycle of scripture that can provide pastors a place to start each week). I turned to the Scriptures for that week. I went immediately to the Gospel lesson, this lesson.
Previously in my life, I had always heard this lesson used during stewardship times. The preacher would say, “You have to give the government your taxes and you have to give God your tithes,” or words to that effect.”
When I finished reading the lesson I immediately turned to one of the other lessons (there is a Psalm, an Old Testament lesson and an Epistle lesson). I didn’t want to use one of my rare preaching opportunities to preach about money. If preaching about money were necessary, that was the preacher’s job.
I don’t remember what lesson I looked at first but in an effort to avoid this story, I read them all. Each time I kept coming back and re-reading our lesson for today. My pastor had told me he didn’t care what I preached on that morning. So, when nothing in the lectionary was speaking to me, or so I thought, I went to what at the time was a very lean and limited file cabinet. Today my files hold some 600 sermons. Then there were maybe 15. And, nothing there was jumping out at me either. I ended up back at “Render unto Caesar…”
I kept reading and re-reading the story. I went to commentaries and read what the “experts” had to say. Oh, and I forgot to say this earlier but I didn’t forget to do it, I prayed. I know at least some of my prayers were, “Lord, I don’t want to preach this text, I don’t want to preach about money. Isn’t there something else I could preach instead?”
There wasn’t. That was the bad news. But, there was good news too. Somewhere about the 50th time I read it (it may have been the 250th time, I don’t remember). A light bulb went on in my mind. I had an ah-ha moment for really the first time in my life.
Since that moment I have never again minded preaching or teaching this particular story from the Bible. But, more on that tomorrow.
Has God given you a light bulb moment? What did God show to you?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved