22nd Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 24) LSB #’s 869:1-3, 698, 783
Text – Matthew 22:21
Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, & to God what is God’s.”
GIVING TO GOD
Two men were leaving church one Sunday, and as they started walking away from God’s house, one spoke out in bitter complaint. “We heard it again this morning. We’re supposed to give willingly, give regularly, give generously. Give, give, give! When are all these appeals for money going to stop?”
His friend turned & said, “Bill, do you remember my son Jim? When he came into the world he cost me quite a bit of money. I had to pay the doctor bill & the hospital charges, buy a crib & all the like. Money had to be spent for medicine, food, clothing, & so on.
As Jim grew, expenses increased. When he started school money was required for transportation, books & activities. In due time we were told he should have braces on his teeth. He entered high school, & it took more money to support him, & then he went to college. You can imagine what that cost!
Well, as you might remember, just a few weeks before he was to graduate, he became critically ill. We did everything we could for Jim, yet the Lord was pleased to call him home, to be in the arms of God. Since we buried our son he hasn’t cost us a single thing, not even one penny!” What is the lesson in that story?
Am I only telling it to tear at your heart, & put the squeeze on you for money? Am I that callous & crass? I believe the story is meant to reveal that when we truly value something we don’t mind contributing our money to it. In fact, we appreciate the opportunity to share our hard earned cash with something we do consider worthwhile.
If you get upset with sermons on giving, maybe it’s because, deep down, you really do
not value your relationship with God like you know that you should. When the subject at hand hits close to that ugly truth – fear grips you – fear of having your sinful weakness exposed. Then the “old Adam” in you takes over, & dictates your reaction. With indignation & blustering you attempt to drive the questioning away, from your area of weakness, by the use of anger.
Is that nothing more than a feeble attempt to hide your sinful nature? The Apostle John speaks very clearly to that type of reaction: “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light, because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, & will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”
People, in the day of Malachi the prophet, were taking advantage of the world’s darkness by offering up rotten grain & sick animals as offerings to God. They thought no one would notice a little mildew, or a case of pinkeye, among the thousands of lambs & heaps of grain being offered as sacrifices. How about your offerings?
Are they the 1st fruits & the best of what God has given you? That’s the “old Adam” in all of its unvarnished repulsiveness & truth. That sinful man resides in each & every one of us. One of the confessions we use puts it very clearly, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, & the truth is not in us.” Have you been sitting here making excuses for your attitude?
Deny it as we might; point out all our good deeds as we may, God’s Word speaks very clearly of the filth of even our most righteous deeds. They are but filthy rags in the sight of the Lord. Hopefully that explains for you why so many people are uncomfortable with sermons on stewardship. If you’re included, you are not alone.
It’s because Satan has an exceptionally strong hold on us, in this materialistic society in which we live, move & have our very being. Intelligent, rational & well-adjusted people state that they never appreciated the wealth of this country until they visited some third world
country to experience the poverty that they live in, day after day after day. In order to give freely & cheerfully, it helps to have an accurate perspective on how much God has given to us.
On the other hand, some churches & pastors are focused almost entirely upon money. One Sunday I went to a non-denominational service at a huge facility near our seminary. During a single one hour & twenty minute service, they passed the offering plate four different times. That was a crass & obvious focus on money.
Do you really think God has any desire for those pieces of green paper printed by the United States Treasury? He created the entire universe through simply speaking the words. He’s almighty. He has the power to do & to have anything. Why would He care even the least bit for your offerings? He doesn’t want your money.
Yahweh wants your life & your soul. He wants you to give them freely out of love for what He’s done for you. Look around our culture. Look into the eyes of those who are so frantically busy. Listen to their conversation. Where are they engaging & investing the bulk of their energy & commitment?
Tragically, they’re spending their very soul on that which is thin, shallow & transitory. Think of how many lives are spent in frenzied work & acquisition, all for a moment of entertainment or self-absorption, only to be quickly returned to the frustrations of their day-to-day slavery.
The blessings of sports & hobbies are converted by our culture, yes even by you & me, into a curse when these activities are made the center & goal of our lives. Such idolatry, as with worship of any false god, soon devours & destroys the worshipper. Have you heard this line from a well-known song of a few years back:
“St. Peter don’t you call me cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store.”
Idolatry destroys! Offering one’s life to the true God brings life. Our Savior re-creates, He builds & He saves, rather than destroys. Satan will take you & suck the life out of you until you’re as dry & lifeless as a skeleton. Jesus Christ longs to breathe new life into you.
The Pharisees, trying to trap Jesus, were concerned only about money & reputation. Is your problem with stewardship sermons due to their focus on money? Jesus calls the Pharisees hypocrites & tells them to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Let him have the money. Give to God what is God’s – your life & your soul, your energy & commitment, your love & your trust.
After all, you’re only returning what He’s already blessed you with in the 1st place. You can’t give what you don’t have, & all that you have is from the Lord. Why is it so difficult to let go & give cheerfully if you’re so self-sufficient? What did you give your life & soul to yesterday? Was it to an idol, or to God? You gave them to something!
In regard to salvation, the only giving that matters is that our Heavenly Father gave His only begotten Son to die for us, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Do you recognize that verse? Many call it their favorite verse in the Bible. If it’s yours, do you live that verse, or is it simply a good luck charm to rub in times of trouble?
If you live that verse, if it guides & directs your day-to-day choices, then you have nothing to fear from giving to God what is His. With the Pharisees, Jesus turns their clever questioning into an opportunity to show that as the Son of God He’s giving back to His Father all of creation in a restored condition. Jesus Himself does the ultimate in giving.
He’s taken on flesh in order to re-create His creation which Adam destroyed through his sin. Through Christ’s death & resurrection He’s begun a new creation & God’s ownership of the entire creation is the foundation for stewardship. That calls for the sort of radical obedience & faithfulness that only Jesus is capable of accomplishing. That’s why stewardship sermons rub us the wrong way, because we’re not capable of living up to them. They hurt our pride. But our Lord & Savior, is capable. For Jesus, questions about paying taxes pale into insignificance.
He is the new covenant, the one where God does everything; where man cannot fail to keep his end of the deal, because man has no end to keep. Jesus has become man in our place. He has kept the covenant in our place. He gives to God what is already God’s, in our place.
That new creation is then given to us, through water & the Word in baptism, through bread & wine, body & blood in the Lord’s Supper. We are to use that new creation to God’s glory, to manage for the benefit of our neighbor. We are the stewards of that new creation, as Adam & Eve were the stewards of the Garden of Eden.
What you put in the offering basket is symbolic of offering your life to Jesus. Our stewardship outside the building is an extension of worship on Sunday, but with the offering we connect the liturgy to our lives immediately. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate & express our love for God. The offering is the place in the liturgy where real life & worship intersect.
So if you have trouble giving an offering of the 1st & the best that God has given you, don’t respond in anger to the threat of having your sin discovered. Freely admit that sin, & then put it in the offering plate. Give your sins to Jesus. Give that sin to Christ so that you may be freed from it. That’s what He died for, that your sins might no longer have power over you.
No matter what you think of stewardship sermons, your life is one of stewardship. You can’t avoid it as long as you’re alive. The question is, “Are you practicing good stewardship or bad? Are you living out the life God has given, or dying on the vine?”
Our Lord died so that you may be born anew every day. In Christ there’s new hope for every day, & He is with us always, to the very end of the age. Each morning Jesus prepares the way ahead of us creating new opportunities for you & me to serve Him & to live in. Amen.
I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven & earth. He will not let your foot be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out & your coming in from this time forth & forevermore. Amen. (Psalm 121 ESV)
 John 3:19-20 NIV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet