The Passion of Christ in the Gospel of Luke
A Guide to Meditation and Prayer
What We Owe to God and Others
A Question About Taxes
Meditation on Scripture- Read Luke 20:19-26 and write your reflections in the workbook. Use the summary below for further reflection on the passage. Prayer- Use the Guide for Prayer.
This account is one in which the priests and the scribes sought to entrap Jesus. Their hope was to get Jesus to say something that would get him into trouble with the Roman authorities. A question about taxes seemed a good one. If they could get Jesus to say that people should not pay Roman taxes, it might cause the governor to take notice. The shrewdness of the question, from their point of view, was that there were many in the crowd who thought the Messiah would overthrow the Romans. If they could not get Jesus to indict himself with the authorities, perhaps they could alienate him from the crowds.
Jesus’ reply to them is brilliant. We are to give to Caesar what belongs to him and to God what is his. Luke notes that even those sent to entrap Jesus marveled at his answer. Jesus here gives a theological principle that goes beyond his answer to their question. The Old Testament interconnected the realms of government and religion, though that had been abandoned under Roman occupation. Jesus’ words lay the foundation for a separation between the spheres of religion and government. Western civilization has taken its cue from this idea and kept the state separate from religious affairs. The state and religion have their separate realms, each with their own responsibilities. The state must not control religion. Religion interacts with the state through persuasion only and the individual involvement of its citizens. These words of Jesus not only indicate that what the government demands in terms of taxes and the like, is not opposed to religious faith but might actually be a part of religious commitment. In Romans 13, Paul will encourage the Roman Christians to be good citizens of the realm as part of their commitment to Christ. That is, there can be obligations that “belong to Caesar.” While the Bible reports instances in which people disobeyed authorities, such as Acts 4, other situations allow for Christian involvement in and obligations to governmental authorities.
Things to Consider –
· What do you consider your responsibility as a good citizen?
· Do you tend to cheerfully obey the laws of the state or do you resist them, either actually or in your heart?
· Western culture is a social contract between people who agree to obey their common laws willingly for the common good. Do you consider yourself a willing participant in our common society for the good of everyone? Do you think that today we have lost this sense of being in a social contract with one another?
· What do you consider your duty to God? In what sense do you consider these a part of your duty? Prayer? Gratitude? Study? Service? Joy? Compassion toward others? Worship? Tithing?
· Which of these duties are you neglecting?
· Do you think duty to God can be joyful?
· What is your duty to your family? Job? Friends?
· How do you use your money? Do you use it primarily for yourself? What part of it do you use in the service of God? Remember that Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Guide for Prayer –
· Close your eyes and take one full minute to calm your mind and gather your spirit.
· Thank God for our country, its liberties and freedoms. Thank God for one thing you are especially grateful for as an American.
· Ask God to help you be a good citizen and promote the country’s welfare.
· Thank God for his wisdom that is sufficient for all problems and questions. What questions do you have for God? Ask God any question that is on your heart.
· Pray for the righteousness of our nation, remembering the proverb that says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)
· Pray for people in your workplace by name. Who else do you think God might want you to pray for?
· Prayer to our Heavenly Father – Almighty God, thank you for this country in which I live. Bless it with your grace and may it always promote liberty and justice for all.
· Prayer to the Son – Forgive me, Savior, for focusing so much of my attention on material things, to the neglect of the spiritual. Help me to give to you what belongs to you.
· Prayer to the Holy Spirit – Holy Counselor, give me discernment to know what I owe, to you and to others.
· Pray for our country and its prosperity. Pray for national leaders, including the President, Congress, and all judges.
· Take some moments to offer your own prayers to God. Offer whatever prayers and praises seem appropriate.