Jesus has already taught that he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). So the questions that come about applying the law have to run through Jesus who bids us to follow him. The answer will not come in propositional statements or even a well-told story but through life in him.
In this way, all the questions that come to Jesus in these last days, even with the best of motives, cannot be answered by simple citation. At the end of the day (or the sermon) we are not called to show how Jesus is clever but whether we will commit our lives to him. –– Stephen C. Kolderup
To those of us who routinely pay taxes to the secular authority, the strength of the emotions involved in the question of “rendering to Caesar” may seem strange. This is not just the sort of reluctance that we all feel about paying taxes. Jewish nationalists were deeply offended by the requirement to pay taxes to Rome; the Herodians and Pharisees, supportive of Roman rule, would have considered refusal to pay the tax treasonous.
Perhaps we can get a better sense of the intensity of feelings about this issue when we realize that the poll tax provoked the Jewish rebellion against Roman rule in 66. . . His opponents thought they had Jesus trapped. But. . . Jesus tells them to give the coin to Caesar, while not neglecting to give to God what is God's. –– Joseph McHugh
Cyrus II, founder of the Persian dynasty, attributed his success in conquering many nations to his pagan god. But the prophet Second Isaiah knows that it is YAHWEH who is the cause of Cyrus' success. We should not minimize the impact of the first sentence: Cyrus, a pagan king, is the Lord's anointed, his “messiah.” This is the only time that scripture bestows the title on a pagan.
The prophet calls upon his people to. . . see that the Lord has called Cyrus to conquer Babylon and other nations on behalf of Israel. . . To borrow the wording in the Gospel, in conquering Babylon, Cyrus will be giving to God what belongs to God. –– Joseph McHugh
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Paul opens this letter with much thankfulness for a congregation that is grounded in faith, love, and steadfastness. This is a church has that has fully embraced the calling of God to be a beacon of light in the world as they live out their faith. They are not mere adherents to doctrinal propositions or denominational polity. No, the church in Thessalonica recognizes that its purpose is to live in response to the Gospel's invitation to new life in the Holy Spirit through repentance and faith.
. . . This congregation has come to the realization that if they are going to be a true living witness then the members' lives must be authentically lived. There must be an intentional and incarnational presence manifested daily to a world that is searching for something to believe in, that needs to see the love of Christ demonstrated through action, and that wants consistency in commitment. –– Chris L. Brady
Chris L. Brady is lead pastor of Wilson Temple, United Methodist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina.
Stephen C. Kolderup, a PCUSA pastor, recently served as temporary pastor to Frenchtown Presbyterian Church, Frenchtown, New Jersey.
Joseph McHugh is a freelance writer who writes on scripture and other religious topics.
Homily Service 41, no. 4 (2008): 80-89.