The Joy of Paying

 Mixing secular and spiritual questions or principles can be a sure way to confusion, because they just aren’t in the same realm. Jesus’ opponents try to trap him with a question about the legitimacy of paying tax to the Roman occupiers. (Mt 22:15-22) And Jesus in his finest fashion gives an enigmatic non-answer, “Pay to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” OK, great. We can compute taxes, pay them and be done with it. But what do we owe to God? The psalms say – everything, all the glory, all the praise and honor.  Incalculable.  Jesus gave his life, and we are called to give ours, too.  We are accountable to God and to one another because we live in covenant community.

Our country is supposed to work the same way but we know it doesn’t always. It is complicated by privilege and power. The injustices of race, gender, immigration status, accessibility to health care and education are disproportionately visited upon the poor who do not have that power or privilege.  And we also have the privilege of blindness. God asks that we remove the blinders, connect with our brothers and sisters and act on their behalf with courage, kindness and respect without regard for the cost to ourselves. That’s what we owe God. It’s hard. We literally owe our lives. Sacrificing life is not always dying painfully on a cross.  Other things are our “life.”  We can sacrifice time, pleasure, resources, status and reputation for the lifting up of others. That is what Jesus modeled. That was what God asked of him and what he knew he owed.

A helping hand, a look of compassion are the works we owe God – they change things. No act of kindness is unimportant. What we owe God is beyond calculation. We will spend our lives living out what we owe, sometimes well, sometimes fumbling and poorly. Or in our self-centeredness, we just may just forget altogether. But that is our call, to live out what we owe to God, in the manner of Jesus. Pay it forward. Pay what you owe.

In gratitude for you —  Pastor Carol

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