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Today: Saturday, August 18, 2018


Whose money?

First published 12 Aug 2018

We’ve just come back from holiday.  The other day I was paying cash in a cafe when the waitress said, “But this isn’t a British coin!”  She was right! Somehow I had got some of my European money mixed up with British money.  And the next coin I produced looked a bit suspicious too.  But when we checked, there was the Queen’s head on one side.  It was the real thing.

Two thousand years ago, the Romans created a vast empire which spanned much of the world as it was then known.  They became so powerful they could impose their laws, their religion and their trade rules on all their subject nations.  They were also able to introduce a common currency.  And their coinage symbolised their authority.  As Emperor, Caesar’s head was on the coins, which meant ‘Caesar rules, OK.’

Jesus picked up on this when he was asked about the imposition of taxes by the Romans.  It seemed like an insult.  “Should we pay our dues to Rome or to the Temple?” he was asked.  “Should we go along with this business of paying taxes to Caesar or do we say that God is our King, therefore we only pay taxes to him?”

Jesus’ response was to take a coin with Caesar’s head stamped on it, and said - “Pay Caesar what is his, and pay God what is his.”  (Read the graphic account in Luke 20, verses 19-26.)

There was another time when Jesus offered a similar choice, saying “No one can be a slave to two masters.  You cannot serve both God and money.” (See Matthew 6, verse 24.)

Our political authorities today are in a similar position to the Roman Emperor.  They have power and authority by legitimate or perhaps by underhand means, and they have some serious rights and responsibilities.  But however powerful they are, however good or bad they are, they are not the ultimate rulers.  There is a higher authority - God rules, OK?

Jesus was not really offering us a choice.  Whoever is in charge politically at this moment, good or bad, deserves some allegiance.  But they, and we all, are ultimately under God’s rule.  God’s authority requires our response and theirs as well.  They are temporary rulers.  God’s rule is eternal.

To the people, Jesus might be saying - yes, pay your taxes, do what is right in your society.  But he is saying to us all, and to politicians in particular, remember that there is no power or authority greater than God’s.  We are all God’s subjects, answerable to him.

We test our politics by this measure - does it fit with what we believe is God’s will, or is this just a human, self-serving device?  It may not always be easy to answer, but the face on the currency begs the question.

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Eternal God, we pray for our political leaders, that they may be obedient to your will.  We pray for ourselves that we too may be obedient to your will.  Help us together to know and to do what you want.

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