Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Daily Devotional: February 23

A Denarius featuring the face of Tiberius Caesar.
Week 5, Day 2, The Gospel According to Matthew, Chapter 22

Matthew 22 has Jesus in Jerusalem teaching crowds and answering difficult questions. His days are numbered, and He is spending His last few days making sure there is no doubt as to what He is doing. In this chapter, we see Him warn the Jewish people in the crowds that their "chosenness" is no guarantee of their goodness. He again makes it clear that the celebration of God's Kingdom is open to more people than they can imagine. 

One of the questions He is asked has to do with allegiance to the Roman Empire. It was a popular form of civil disobedience in those days to withhold taxes, and many people were divided as to what they should do. Most people in Jerusalem were tired of being ruled by Rome. They believed they were God's chosen people, and that one day God would deliver them in glorious victory over Rome. That was what the Messiah was supposed to do, according to them. Having never lived under occupation, I can't really pretend to know what that feels like. I can understand the frustration of giving money to an occupying force that seemingly keeps its boot on your neck.

Do you have a debt to Caesar?

The thing is, the people asking Jesus this question really didn't hate Rome as much as they pretended. They benefitted from the system Rome put in place. They benefitted from the social order, the class system, and the economic growth Rome brought. The Pharisees were protected by Rome, and allowed to exploit the people by Rome. Sure, they wanted a Messiah to come overthrow Rome, but only on their terms. 

When Jesus asks for a coin, it doesn't take long for one of them to produce one. They are deeply immersed in the economy of the State. They have a debt to Caesar because they love the comfort he provides them. We do the same thing today. We call it patriotism, but often it is more like idolatry. Jesus' answer plainly says to pay your debt. If you have a debt you've incurred to the State, you are going to need to pay it. If you have decided to be a part of the world's system, you are responsible for that decision. If you want to live in the Kingdom of the Christ, you have to give yourself to God instead. 

Do you have a debt to Caesar?

Right now, my home country is in the middle of an extremely embarrassing election cycle. I can see on my facebook news feed people who are rendering themselves to Caesar. People caught up in service of the comfort the State provides them are pledging allegiance to whatever candidate will best serve those interests. 

We have to be able to separate what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God. We need clarity, and we need to be devoted to the Kingdom of Love. 

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About Drew

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A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.