FOR the past 22 months, we’ve been mining Matthew for spiritual gold. I cannot begin to describe to you what the messages are doing to me. I know I’m the one preaching them to you but God’s Word is changing me.
Coincidentally, we’re now in Chapter 22 and the narrative is ramping up towards the climax of the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Today, I’d like to preach the powerful message, “Give to God what belongs to God.”
Before we open the sacred text, I’d like to share two stories…
Secret Passcode to Your Heart
One day, I was attending Mass in a faraway place.
When it was time to take Communion, I stood and lined up, but silly me, I left my phone on the pew. When I returned, it was gone.
When my wife learned about it and gave me the “look” that only wives can give to husbands and get away with it, I told her, “Sorry Sweets, I was so focused on receiving Jesus, I forgot everything else.” (That’s what she gets for marrying a preacher.)
After Mass, I used my wife’s phone to locate my phone using some hi-tech wizardry I myself don’t understand. According to the map, my phone was moving out some one kilometer away.
I jumped in the car and chased after my phone. I don’t want to bore you with the details, but 30 minutes later, I got my phone back.
Do you know why?
The thief couldn’t use it. By default, phones are encrypted with a PIN—a personal identification number. Without my PIN—that secret passcode only I knew—my phone would just be a very expensive paperweight.
Please listen to my message. You belong to God. He is your Owner. And only God knows the PIN of your heart. Please don’t share your PIN with anyone else. Not to anything or anyone.
You Belong to God
Here’s my second story.
Recently, I got into biking. Even if I’ve never been athletic my entire life. But one day, my son Francis got into biking and he asked me, “Dad, do you want to bike with me?”
I may not love biking, but I love my son. So, I dove into biking head first. And today, I enjoy biking too.
At first, I was borrowing my nephew’s bike, until I was able to buy my own. When my brand-new bike arrived home, I looked really beautiful.
I was surprised that the first thing I did was tell my driver to borrow it so he too can exercise. Honestly, I felt happy. I realized I wasn’t attached to anything. I felt free. I believe many of our problems come from our attachments.
My prayer: “Lord, be my only attachment.”
I want my heart to belong to God alone.
Let’s now unpack our key reading for today…
Never Look for Praise
Matthew must have liked the number 3 because he lined up three parables— which we talked about in the past three weeks—and he also lined up three questions—questions that the religious leaders asked to trap Jesus. Their goal was to get rid of Jesus.
Today, we’ll read their first question. Picture the sprawling Temple
grounds, an open space surrounding the imposing Temple building. Somewhere in the middle was Jesus and the religious leaders debating, and a curious crowd standing around them.
Jesus wasn’t fooled by their sweet-talk. Here’s a tiny lesson: Never look for praise from others— because those who flatter you today can crucify you tomorrow. Don’t look for fans, look for friends.
The Explosive Question
The flatterers then asked Jesus,
This is such a dangerous question. It was like lighting a match in the middle of a gas station with a leaking pump and gasoline flowing everywhere.
If Jesus said, “Don’t pay taxes,” they would report Him to the Romans for sedition. But if Jesus said, “We should pay our taxes,” the crowd would see Him as unfaithful to God—because they were all religious Jews and they hated paying taxes to Rome. Why? The emperor claimed to be god, so if you paid taxes to Rome, Jews believed you’re disloyal to the true God.
Plus, the Romans were the oppressors. The empire conquered Israel in 6 A.D.and imposed taxes on every adult Jew.
Note that a few years before Jesus started preaching, there was another Galilean named Judas who started a tax revolt. But the Romans squashed the protest quickly.
My hunch is that during this debate, the religious leaders were holding their phones the entire time, waiting for Jesus to say, on video, “Don’t pay taxes!” And all they had to do was send an email of the video to Rome and say, “Here’s another Galilean starting a tax revolt…”
But Matthew says Jesus had X-ray Vision…He sees right through you. He knows if your intentions are true or if you are just putting up a show…
Our Scary Ability To Believe in Our Own Lies
Matthew said, But Jesus knew their evil motives. (v.18)
Evil is scary. But what is scarier than evil?
Doing evil and believing you’re doing good.
The religious leaders were in denial. They thought they were doing something really holy— even if they were going to murder someone. They thought they were fighting for God—but in reality, they were fighting God Himself.
Face it. Humans have this crazy ability to believe in their own lies. (Listen to a few politicians.
What’s the best way to combat this?
You cannot do it alone. You need the Holy Spirit to help you.
I invite you: Every night, ask the Holy Spirit to do a CT scan on your heart.
Here’s a wonderful prayer:
Next, Jesus exposes their evil plan…
What Jesus Did Was Genius
Before we study what He said, study what He did.
Jesus asked for a denarius.
A denarius was, according to the religious Jew, an “idolatrous” coin because it had the face of Emperor Tiberius stamped on it. Because their Torah said:
Out of sensitivity, Rome allowed the Jews to have their own copper coins for daily use.
So, Jesus didn’t carry a denarius, but whajaknow, the religious leaders carried the idolatrous coin– and within the sacred Temple grounds. My imagination got wild here. I bet when they pulled the coin from their pocket, they instantly realized their mistake and turned red with embarrassment. So, even without saying a word, Jesus exposed their hypocrisy.
And Jesus’ answer was beyond brilliant… Jesus was not evading their question.
He was declaring spiritual truth, and it was not just about taxes.
Background: In ancient times, when someone becomes king, the first thing a king does was mint a coin with his face on it. A coin with your profile photo stamped on it was solid proof that you were king.
If you were a Jew listening to Jesus, you’d totally get the hyperlink Jesus was making. He was giving a reference to the Genesis story: When God created the world, He enthroned Himself as King over the universe.
Let’s read in Genesis 1:27:
You see, you and I, my dear friends—we—are God’s coin. And He didn’t need a coin with His face on it— because He already had us.
He made us in His image. We were His coin. God stamped His face on our hearts.
So, again, what belongs to Caesar should be given to Caesar. And what belongs to God should be given to God.
Because you are the imago Dei.
But what belongs to God?
Let’s read Psalm 24:1
Hallelujah! You are God’s. You are the image and likeness of God.
So, give to God what belongs to God.
Let me add this passage from Luke 5:13:
May I preach this…
The house where you live in is your place. You paid for it. Or you’re paying from your sweat and tears, right?
I know the skills that you learned you learned from hard work and effort.
I know that the multitude of followers that you have on Facebook, Instagram or Tiktok are all yours. They are products of your creativity and ingenuity.
But just as what He said to Simon Peter that day on the shore, Jesus says:
God is asking the same question right now: May I use your boat? May I use your house as my Church? May I use your influence to impact generations? May I use your voice to preach hope to the hopeless?
Make no mistake, my dear friends: When you say “Yes” to Jesus, here’s what will happen…
Let’s look at the continuation of Luke 10 in verse 3:
God Will Take Care of You
Let me ask you: Do you take care of what belongs to you? I’m sure you do. And even if we’re careless, I know God is not. If you belong to God, God will take care of you. Put your hands over your chest and confess:
Say it again. Say it when things are not going your way. Say it when it seems your prayers aren’t being answered.
God will not only take care of you. He will fight for you. He will die for you. Wait a minute…He already did! Jesus said:
Dear friend, you’re His flock. You’re His family. You’re His beloved.
You belong to Him. He bought you at a price.
Today, as we worship, give to God what belongs to God. I want to invite you right now to surrender your life to the One who gave you life to begin with, to give back to God what belongs to God.
And for many of you, this might mean a re-commitment of your “Yes” that you said once upon a time to Jesus, that you will continue to walk with Him and journey with Him
But for some of you, if you’ve never taken that first step toward Jesus, if you’ve never opened your life to Him, we’re giving this wonderful opportunity for you to do just that. Know this: Once you say “Yes” to Jesus, there is no turning back. Jesus is going to change you inside out. Say this out loud:
Dear Jesus, here I am. I confess all my sins to You and I ask for Your mercy and forgiveness. I declare that You came into this world to rescue me and to restore me. And so, with all that I am, with all that I have, I surrender and submit myself to You. I offer You my life, my voice, my talents, my skills, all that I am, my whole heart. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.