O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Put to the Test
"Put to the Test"
Based on Mt. 22:15-22
October 16, 2011
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Fellow baptized saints, what do you do when you are meeting someone for the first time, and you may have reason not to trust them? Do you hold back to see what they are like? Do you create some sort of test in your mind that they must pass to earn your trust? Perhaps one of the most interesting situations like this is when a father and mother meet their daughter's boyfriend for the first time. Particularly for the father. How could any young man ever be good enough for their daughter? How could I ever trust someone with something so close to my heart? And so you make a test. Perhaps not on purpose or consciously, but somewhere in there, you are looking to find evidence of certain things about this "new" person.
But what happens when the "new person" passes the test? Honestly, are you always ready and willing to give them the trust they deserve? Are you able to be true to your own test? Or do you find that sometimes that still isn't good enough? Do you find that you cannot trust this "new" person because you cannot trust yourself? You know your failures all to well and that makes you hold back from trusting a perfectly reliable person. You would rather make yourself a liar to your own test, than actually leave yourself open to a trustworthy person.
Jesus faced a similar situation in our text this morning. The Pharisees sent their disciples to test Him. They wanted Jesus to make a fool of Himself in public, and so they tried to entangle Him in His talk. They brought up a controversial topic - taxes! Yes, it was just as controversial in Jesus' day as it is today. The Hebrew people grumbled because they were taxed by their Roman rulers. Some tried to escape this tax by claiming it was against what God wanted. And so the trap was set, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"
Now we have already heard how Jesus so effortlessly answered this question, but the simplicity and clarity of His answer is worthy of repeating. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." In other words, why are you worried about the measly tax that you owe to the authority that keeps order in this place. Yes, pay the tax.
But shouldn't your focus be on the things that belong to God. God wants much more than your money, He wants your heart and your soul and your mind and your strength. He wants your attention for every moment of the day. He wants your whole life to be lived in Him, one that glorifies Him for all He has given you and done for you. Why are you worried about the measly tax?
Now it is easy for us to see the misplaced focus in the Pharisees, but are we able to see it in ourselves? Do we realize that Jesus is trying to teach us the same thing today, that He taught the Pharisees that day? For when it comes to this exact topic, we all think that the hardest thing to give God is our money, and we think nothing of what He truly wants, our heart, and soul, and mind and strength. We too are focused on the measly "tax" - We grumble in our hearts about tithing as if God were taxing us, instead of acknowledging that He has given us all that we have and thankfully returning a fitting portion to Him.
We are like the father who is not willing to let any young man be good enough for his daughter, not even God Himself, even though God was the one who gave us our daughter in the first place. God is not worthy of my money, even though He was the one who gave it to me. I don't care if He has passed my test, I would rather make myself a liar than trust Him to provide for my earthly needs. Yes, Lord I trust you with my sins, I trust you with my life, I trust you with my death, but can I really trust you with my money? Can I really trust myself to give it to you Lord? You need to prove it. You need to prove it to me again and again and again.
But not just for my money, Lord, you need to prove it to me again and again for my time and my talents as well. Look at the number of vacancies we have on church council, on the school board, in the Sunday school, and on the board of elders. We give our time and talents to everything else, except the mission of our Lord. Can I really trust you with my time Lord? You need to prove it to me again and again and again.
But take heart, beleaguered Christian, for that is exactly what Your Savior does for you. Jesus is not exempt from giving. He too must give all of his heart and all of his soul and all of his mind and all of his strength to His heavenly Father, and when He gave His all on the cross, even His innocent blood, there He gave what you have failed to give. There He gave for you and for me. There He forgave your mistrust and your ingratitude and all of the things that you have done wrong. You are forgiven and heaven is yours because Jesus gives it to you.
And the most amazing thing - is that He knew you would need Him to prove it to you again and again and again. So He gives you His body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of your sins. And He will feed Himself to you again and again and again, because He is alive. He rose from the dead, so you would know that He is really going to do all of the things He promises to do. He is going to provide for you. He is going to protect you. He is never going to leave you alone. As St. Paul writes, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave Him up for us all - how will he not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?
God will never stop giving you what you need. He will never stop providing for all concerns of body, mind and soul. He is worthy of our trust. Worthy of our obedience. Worthy of our gifts.
Our text comes to an end by saying, "When they heard what Jesus said, they marveled." And so do we - for the Word of God reveals marvelous things about how much Jesus loves us. We can open ourselves to Him because He has passed the test, again and again and again. And He will never stop giving, for His blood is endless. Come and taste. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr