“I lived on the shady side of the road,” wrote poet Rabindranath Tagore, “and watched my neighbors’ gardens across the way reveling in the sunshine. I felt I was poor, and from door to door went my hunger. The more they gave me from their carless abundance, the more I became aware of my beggar’s bowl. Till one morning I awoke from my sleep at the sudden opening of my door, and you came and asked for alms. In despair I broke the lid of my chest open and was startled into finding my own wealth.”
Matthew 22:15-22 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
What hard truth is Jesus teaching us?
In God we trust, but bring cash only please
To get your image on money, you must be dead. God wants the divine image on all that’s living
The Pharisees, the church leaders, are the hypocrites for having a denarius
We are what we do with our money, which is why Jesus talks about it more than any other subject
The hard truth is that until Martin is Chief Justice, until Mother is Secretary of State, and until Jesus is President, we are caught between filling out W2s and stewardship cards, between Empire tariffs and Kingdom tithes.
“Frisk us,” says Barbara Brown Taylor, “and you’ll find two passports on our persons- one that says we are citizens of heaven, the other insists we are taxpayers on earth.”
30% comes off the top to fund the march of Imperialism in the colonial State, to bankroll the corrupt politician’s soiree on the islands, to underwrite the Tuskegee syphilis experiment on black sharecroppers. It is an automatic draft as certain as roaches and death. Caesar gets his cut. Caesar get his cut… for now.
But there’s still 70% of jingle left in our pockets, coinage to be dumped out on the countertop of life, to be given in God’s name. A penny for clean water; a nickel for a brother’s bus ticket to work; a dime for a sister’s psychiatric script; a quarter for the the rape crisis hotline in Boston; a silver dollar for the orphanage in Bolivia.
Spend your money on the One who spent everything on you. Spend your money on the One who spent everything on you. Spend your money on the One who spent everything on you.
Lynne Twist, the CEO of the Hunger Project, stepped down into the basement of a broken-down Harlem church for a fundraiser. She made her presentation and made her ask to the poor people gathered. The room fell silent.
A woman in her seventies, finally, in the back stood up proud and said, “My name is Gertrude. I ain’t got no checkbook, no credit cards. To me money is a lot like water. For some folks it rushes through life like a raging river. Money comes through my life like a trickle. But I want to pass it on… It is my joy. I have $50 in my purse from doing a white woman’s wash and I want to give it to you.”
Then Jesus said, “Give therefore to the Emperor the things that are the Emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”