Tuesday, November 19, 2013

unto Caesar

In a conversation with a friend and mentor recently, we got onto the topic of stewardship and Godly giving. He related to me a portion of a sermon he had recently heard from Ravi Zacharias; in this message, Ravi was speaking about the time in Jesus' ministry when Christ was confronted with the question of (essentially) if a follower of Christ should pay taxes. Jesus of course replies by asking whose face appears on the money... the answer was, Caesar. Jesus then commanded to give unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to give unto God what is God's. Ravi then made the statement that he wishes that the questions would have continued, and the man would have posed to Jesus, "Then what is of God's that we should give unto Him?"

I have been thinking over the response to this question, as Ravi posed it, for a good while now, and the implications of it are quite large... its just this simple: we are able to clearly identify that which is Caesar's based on the imprint of Caesars's likeness on the coin... likewise, we can discern what is God's by identifying what in Creation has been imprinted with the likeness of God.

In Genesis, at the creation of man, God speaks, saying, "Let us create man in our own image." The same word here for image could be translated as "likeness". It is among the most important demarcations setting humanity apart from the rest of creation, we bear the likeness or the image of our Creator. So the extrapolation of Jesus' instruction that we are to give unto Caesar that which bears the image of Caesar would be the implication that we are to give unto God that which bears the image of God... ourselves!

We find over and over again through the New Testament commands given to give ourselves to the things of God, to devote ourselves to the will of God, and here we find an implied command to give to God what is God's. But what does that look like? Giving to Caesar was easy... or at least clearly defined... you gave whatever Caesar commanded of you (plus whatever the collector could weasel out of you to line his own pockets). Is it the same with God? Does God command us to give Him whatever He feels is right and fair? Do His "collectors" then try to twist you for a little extra for their own? I would argue that many in our culture believe that that is exactly how it works.

Whereas it may be predominant belief of the culture, we know that God does not work in that way. Under the new covenant of Christ's blood, there is no commandment or set standard of acceptable giving. There is a command to give generously, regularly, sacrificially, graciously... we are commanded to seek the proper giving in our lives. The implications of these commands go way beyond the giving of money, after all, the money does not bear the image of God. Are we to give of our monetary blessings? Yes! Its all gifted to us from God in the first place, we are merely worshiping with thankful giving back that which we were graciously gifted in the first place. But, more importantly, we are to be giving with that grateful heart, that which bears the image of God. Our time, our devotion, our love, our life... all of who we are is to be given to God.

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