Proper 24 A Matthew 22:15–22
I bring you grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus. Amen.
God’s holy Word for our glad hearing and learning for this Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost is the Gospel which was read.
Let us all pray: Lord, Your Word is truth; Sanctify them in Your truth. Amen.
In December, 1934, German Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer received the following reply in part from the Provisional Church Administration to the question about the loyalty oath to German leader, Adolph Hitler:
At this point in time, we are able to say the following regarding our position:
The Oath to be sworn to the Führer, Adolph Hitler, which invokes the name of God, conveys the seriousness of one’s commitment to loyalty and obedience as a responsibility before God, which is its proper foundation. Through the reference to God, it excludes any action contrary to the commandments of God according to the testimony of Holy Scripture.
With this understanding, we hold the words of our Lord: “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s”…
Proper use? or misuse of Jesus’ words which we heard this morning, spoken to the Pharisees and Herodians during holy week before he was crucified by Roman soldiers?
Herodians is another name for those who were loyal to King Herod, and because of that loyalty were also loyal to the Romans who occupied the land. That is why they were brought along as possible witness at Jesus trial for inciting civil disobedience.
But it is clear that Jesus did no such thing. Yet his words still packed enough punch to make his enemies leave in amazed.
For you see, the Roman emperor was hailed as divine. Emperor worship was practiced in the empire. Jesus distinguishes between the Lord God and the human Caesar. Yet, his answer does not allow them to trap him. He’s answered their question. Caesar gets what is his and God gets what belongs to Him.
As far as Adolph Hitler was concerned, he never was worshiped, and he was never declared divine. Yet there came a time when young pastor Bonhoeffer became convinced that the German leader had to be assassinated, and for his participation in the plot against Hitler he was eventually killed in a concentration camp.
This morning’s Gospel Lesson is best known to us–not as the litmus test for whether we should worship our leaders, or even obey them–as the proof text to the question, “Should a Christian pay taxes?”
And, what better authority is there than Jesus?
And regardless of how you feel about His answer, He states clear and simple: “Yes.” God would have you pay your taxes.” We are to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, that is, give to him all that he has a right to and demands.
And if you want a more concise list of those things that are Caesar’s, then that’s to be found in the Bible, too. In Romans chapter 13,
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. 6 For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 7 Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7)
Now, friends, just think about this: the apostle Paul wrote those words during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero, who had his own mother and brother killed, and who burned Christians tied to poles, to light the walkways of his garden. It was also under Nero that Paul was martyred in the year 67.
September’s National Geographic had an article titled “Rethinking Nero”, suggesting that perhaps Nero has been misrepresented and misunderstood. Some historians are revising history. But others aren’t buying it.
Anyway, Paul wrote these words at a time when one of the most notorious emperors reigned. And he could say that the government was in place by God.
But are we really to submit in everything? The Germans and especially the German church at the time of Adolph Hitler are judged today as having submitted to authority and to the government without questioning and in blind obedience, allowing for the rise of terrible reign of terror of the Nazis, and thereby bearing guilt.
Which finally leads to the real point of this message today. What about us? As Christians and followers of Jesus Christ, how obedient are we to be to the government, especially in light of the events happening in Houston, Texas, between the mayor there and that city’s pastors?
If you’re not familiar with that story here it is briefly:
An ordinance was passed in Houston earlier this year known as the “Bathroom Bill”. The law allows men to use women’s bathrooms if they identify themselves as women.
Subpoenas were issued in a response to a lawsuit that claimed that pastors were helping to lead opposition to the Bathroom Bill by publicly speak against the ordinance and encouraging members to sign the petition. The city’s Mayor, who is a lesbian, wants the pastor’s sermons turned in. To be read. To see what they had to say about the bill, and about the sin of homosexuality. Many are rightly calling this a violation of free speech and the First Amendment.
What would we do here if such a subpoena came to us? Would we back down and change our message and preaching?
The Bible says Homosexuality is a sin. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, we read:
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
And in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 we also read,
The law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine,
All this gay talk and lesbian language is just trying to avoid the truth of the matter. It is homosexuality. It is men attempting to have sex with a man, and a woman attempting to have sex with a woman. That’s how the Bible speaks of it, and it happens to be the truth. Again Paul is very explicit about it in Romans chapter 1 verses, 26-32. And we need to hear these things or we’re going to be led to believe otherwise. Listen to God’s Word:
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Friends, we need to hear, to be reminded, that the Bible also teaches this, along with the historic Christian faith, that homosexuality is a sin, a sin for which full atonement has been made by the blood of Jesus who gives eternal life to all who repent and believe on His name. Just as He forgives you all your sins which you repent, whatever they might be
So should the pastors hand over their sermons? Yes, gladly. They should make there confession before Kings. That’s a high honor as the Psalmist says, Psalm 119:46 46 I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame,
But if they are told to stop preaching God’s Word. especially if they are punished for it: put into jail. Then the government has become evil and has gone against the will and purposes for which God has established it. In Acts the apostles were told not to speak of Christ and the resurrection of Jesus. They answered, “We must obey God, rather than man!”
Yes, the Christian should disobey the government when the government tells them to sin, and they may disobey with a clear conscience. Regardless of what ramifications there may be. The person may have a clear conscience that their actions will be judged as right by Jesus Christ on the Last Day.
Yet, we’re not in that position yet. But it is good for us to pray for our government and leaders, that they may govern us according to God’s will and ways.
And should we worry about what will come in the future? We can be involved citizens. We can vote leaders in and out of office. We can actively participate in government. And we also pray the Lord ’s Prayer, where we ask our heavenly Father, to lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from all evil.You see, when Jesus was answering those Pharisees and Herodians he really was saying that. Praying the Lord’s Prayer. Especially summed as it is in the conclusion: For God’s is the Kingdom and the power and the glory. Forever. Amen.