Text: Matthew 22:15-22
Pastor Daniel Schmidt
How do you and your family celebrate the 4thof July? Maybe you spend the day at one of the lakes in our area. Maybe you enjoy a cookout in your backyard with family or friends. Maybe you don’t do anything, but go to a fireworks display at night. One way or another, most of us celebrate the 4thof July. And usually it is a happy time spent with family and friends.
The 4thof July is a time for us as citizens of the United States of America to celebrate the freedoms that we enjoy. It is also a time for us as CHRISTIAN citizens to remember that the blessing of living in a free country such as ours is a gift of our Lord’s grace to us. Today, we gather together in God’s house to celebrate his grace to our country and to our congregation. Based on the Gospel Lesson that we heard read just a few moments ago, you and I are encouraged to CELEBRATE THE SAVIOR’S GRACE THIS JULY 4TH!
The portion of God’s Word before us today is taken from the events of Holy Week. Soon the Savior would hang on the cross, where he would suffer and die as the full payment price for your sins and mine. On Tuesday of that week, a day known as “Busy Tuesday”, the unbelieving enemies of Jesus were attempting to trap him in any way they could. Here they thought if they could get Jesus to speak out against the Roman government, then they could bring him up on charges of rebellion and have him sentenced to death as a traitor.
So they ask their question: “What is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But, we are told, “Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’” Jesus’ answer to this trick question from his enemies is that a Christian citizen celebrates the Savior’s grace by supporting both the work of the government and the work of the Church
Think about the kind of conversations you have with others about our government leaders and those in positions of authority. Do you ever find yourself speaking badly about a particular leader, or referring to him or her in terms that don’t show respect for the position they have? While you and I don’t have to agree with the politics or opinions of a certain individual, when we don’t show them respect, you and I are guilty of breaking the 4thCommandment, which teaches you and me to “honor, serve and obey them, and give them love and respect.”
It is only by the grace of our Savior-God that you I and have the forgiveness of all sins, including those sins we commit against the 4thCommandment. As we celebrate the Savior’s grace, you and I willingly support the leaders in our government. How do we do that? Let’s let the Bible answer this question for us:
In Titus 3:1 we read, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.”
And in Peter’s first letter we are told, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.”
As we read a few moments ago from Romans chapter 13, “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
Finally, God’s Word tells us that you and I support our government by praying for our country’s leaders. It is in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, chapter 2, that we read “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority.”
A question which every Christian wrestles with when it comes to the gifts of our time, talents and treasures is not “How much is God’s and how much is mine?” You and I know that ALL of our time, talents and treasures belong to our gracious God who freely and lovingly gives them to us. The question you and I are to wrestle with on a daily basis is, “How am I going to use what God has given me for his glory and the good of others?”
Certainly, there are many good causes we are able to get involved in here in the Oconomowoc area. As Christian citizens, you and I don’t have to hide under a rock. Rather, we are able to use our time and talents to play an active role in our city and in our government. Yes, it is necessary for us to give some of our money to government in the form of taxes. In return, think of the many blessings we receive from our government; blessings such as: parks; roads and highways, which make travel easier; protection from fire as well as protection from our police department and our national military.
For all these blessings, you and I give thanks to our gracious Lord of the Nations, who blesses us through our government. My dear friends in Christ, this July 4th, celebrate the Savior’s grace by supporting the work of our government.
Christians live as dual citizens. We have our citizenship here in this country which the Lord has given to us. But we also live as citizens of God’s Kingdom. Jesus says to us in this portion of God’s Word before us, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Not only do we celebrate the Savior’s grace by supporting the work of our government, but you and I also celebrate his grace by supporting the work of the church.
It is important for us to remember that the Bible is clear when it teaches us that the government and the Church do not have the same roles, or jobs to carry out. As our Lutheran Confessions state, “The two authorities, the spiritual and the temporal, are not to be mingled or confused, for the spiritual power [the church] has its commission to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments.” Where do we find this “commission”, this command, from our Savior, spoken of in our Confessions? The answer is found in Matthew 28 where we read, “Then Jesus came to [his disciples] and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’” Commenting on this Great Commission from the Lord of the Church to his disciples, our confessions state this: “Christ gave the apostles only spiritual power, that is, the command to preach the Gospel, proclaim forgiveness of sins, and administer the sacraments . . . He did not give them the power of the sword or the right to establish, take possession of, or transfer the kingdoms of the world.” It is clear from God’s Word that the Lord of the Nations and the Lord of the Church, desires that you and I support the work of the church to proclaim his Word; to share his message of Law and Gospel; to lead people away from sin and unbelief and into a right relationship with their one and only Savior. In order to carry out the task of making followers of Jesus, our Lord has given us the only tool we need: his holy, precious, almighty Word.
As we celebrate the Savior’s grace this July 4th, what are some ways that you and I support the work of the Church? We support this work by flooding our Savior-God’s throne of grace with our prayers.
Next, you and I support this work by giving back to the Lord the best of all he has given to us. Each one of us is to ask ourselves the question: “How can I use what the Lord has blessed me with to support the work of the church?” Why do congregations such as ours often times have budget deficits? Why do congregations, at times, struggle to find volunteers to help out in a certain area of ministry? Is it because the Lord hasn’t given you and me enough blessings to carry out the ministry he has entrusted to us? Or, is it because you and I have become guilty of the sin of selfishness? A good question for each one of us to ask ourselves is: “Am I giving back to my gracious Savior-God my very best?”
Repenting of the sin of selfishness, rejoicing in the Savior’s grace that won your forgiveness, joyfully support the work of the church. With thankful hearts for all of God’s blessings to you, willingly give the best of your time, your talents and your treasures without waiting to be asked. Give of your time and talents by getting involved in the ministry of our congregation or by sharing God’s Word with others and inviting them to come and hear the Word of God with you. Give of your treasures to support the Gospel-centered work carried out by our congregation and by our Wisconsin Synod.
It is my prayer that you and your family will have a very enjoyable and safe holiday. This July 4th, celebrate the Savior’s grace by supporting the work of the government and by supporting the work of the church. Amen.