A dramatization of Matthew 22:15-22, in which Jesus tells the Pharisees to give unto Caeser that which is Caesar’s and give unto God that which is God’s.
This was posted on a different blog years back, but that blog has since been shut down. I thought this story needed to be out there, somewhere on the internet, and this felt like the perfect spot. “Give Unto God” is a fictionalized dramatization of an event in Jesus’ life, one I wrote back in 2009. I’ve taken liberties with the language and added details not found in the original text, but I’ve tried to remain true to the intent of the story, and to present its meaning in plain words. I hope you enjoy the read. More, however, I hope you get something out of it.
Jerusalem nearly burst from the jostling but excited crowds during Passover week. Many of the people had traveled over a hundred miles to be in the city during its most blessed celebration – a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some. The square was filled with the shouts of merchants plying their wares, the happy laughter of children playing games in the street, and the rich aroma of fresh-baked flatbread from a nearby bakery. Jesus’ face bent into an ironic smile. He knew what this week meant, to him. But he knew what it would mean to them, as well.
It was a new day, and the sun had not yet risen over the walls of Jerusalem. The city was still enshrouded with the lazy light of morning, and the air was cool and moist. This morning, Jesus walked alone, having sent his disciples ahead of him, to gather supplies for the day. They were to meet him at the Temple.
The Temple was a marvelous structure – but one he rarely had the chance to enjoy. Most of his time spent there had been taken up with teaching – he taught with stories, hoping to get his point across – and answering questions. Today, he knew, would be no different. There was no doubt he was popular among those who frequented the Temple, but just as many despised his words as loved what he taught.
Jesus ascended the steps into the outer courts of the Temple – where those who were not Jews were allowed to come – found an empty bench, and sat down. Soon, he had attracted six young men and women, all of whom were asking him (some politely, some less-so) for a story or a bit of wisdom. He smiled, and began to instruct them, sharing with them first a tale about a wedding feast. The people listened closely, some with devious looks spread across their faces, as if they hoped to trip him up in some theological argument, but none seemed to be able to refute the words he spoke.
“So you see,” he concluded, “many are called, but few are chosen.”
A wave of murmuring spread across the crowd, which had grown to nearly thirty people. Some of the people nodded sagely, as if it all made perfect sense to them. Many simply looked confused.
One brave soul changed the subject.
“Teacher,” he called out. “Should we be paying taxes to the Roman dog, Caesar? What does the Law say about that?”
Jesus recognized the man. He was Uzzah, a student under Abijah, a member of the Pharisees. Jesus shook his head. It was easy to imagine the man’s intent: he had been sent by his superiors to trick the one they considered a false teacher. Jesus scanned the small crowd gathered around him. There were more of them, as well: Bodesh, Elihaz, Mathiel, and Elaniel. All students of prominent members of the Sanhedrin.
“Does anyone have a tax-coin handy?” Jesus asked. Someone tossed him a denarius. He studied it for a moment, then continued, “Who’s face is on this coin, Uzzah?”
“Well, Caesar’s,” Uzzah answered. “Duh.” The crowd laughed, and Jesus laughed with them.
The he continued: “If the coin’s got his face on it, it must be his. I say, give everything with Caesar’s face on it to Caesar, if he wants it all. And if something has God’s face on it, give it to God.”
The people sat for a moment, dumbfounded. One by one, Uzzah, Bodesh, Elihaz, Nathiel, and Elaniel walked away, looking half-dazed.
The crowd dispersed, but Jesus met their eyes one by one. Each of them had been created by his Father. Each of them bore, in some way, the face of their creator.
That they could wander off and not understand what he meant nearly drove him to tears.
There are times when you feel far from God, far from your faith. B.A. Simon explores this in his own life through a discussion on belief and belonging.
I’ve been wrestling with my faith quite a bit lately. A couple of you know this, most do not. The struggle has been a rough one; it wasn’t about whether I believed, but whether I belonged. This isn’t something I’ve talked much about, because I wasn’t sure how to express it to people, but some friends have made a point to find out what’s been going through my head, even if it came across as a bit of stream-of-consciousness babble sometimes.
This week, things have changed. For the first time in a very long time, I offered prayers up – sincere, heartfelt supplication – and for the first time in even longer still, I am happy to say I know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I’ve committed to him until the day He comes to take me home.
If it isn’t clear, I believe in the Christ, in the grace God gave us through the life, death, and bodily resurrection of Jesus, and in the Spirit of God gifted to us as our guide and conscience, our connection with the Word and the motivator of our faithful actions.
It’s difficult for me to say this, because for the last year or so I’ve been convinced that my time in the body of Christ was over, that something I had said or done constituted a breach of contract with God. In so many words, I believed I had somehow blasphemed the Holy Spirit. There are even instances I can point to which, if taken in their own context rather than a greater picture, might suggest that very thing, and thinking back on those events, studying them, trying to figure out what they meant (if anything at all) had me in the tight grasp of spiritual bindings.
There’s no compelling reason to go into details here, but suffice it to say I’ve been disabused of the notion. Those of you who have encouraged me through this, know that you have my deepest of thanks.
What comes next? I don’t know. I’m no seer or prophet, I don’t know what the future holds. Maybe it’s time for me to find a body of believers and get integrated. Are the followers of Christ who I know and interact with regularly enough? Do they constitute meeting with the saints? (That’s right, believer, you’re a saint!) Part of me trembles at the idea of finding and attending a church; the last place where we went, I was accused of being malicious and disruptive, and of being unwilling to submit to the authority of a pastor.
And maybe I was. And maybe I am. I don’t know.
I can be arrogant about knowledge. It’s a war inside me, and sometimes I lose the little battles, especially when I don’t listen to the Chief Strategist. That’s part of the issue I deal with when it comes to taking part in a local church group. It’s this arrogance – which reared itself up in a discussion on Facebook recently – that makes me shudder at the idea of going to Sunday meeting. Knowledge is one of my greatest strengths, and certainly my greatest weakness. Especially when I come across as if I don’t believe I could possibly be wrong.
The worst part is, I’m not sure how to keep it in check. Trust God. Give it to him. Not always as easy as it sounds. Never as easy as it sounds. In fact, most of the time it’s next to impossible. (Nothing is impossible with God… but sometimes it’s hard to hand our dangerous treasures over to him.)
There are things I haven’t done, things I should have been doing; those things will start now.
- Prayer. My prayer life has been sporadic at best, abysmal at worst.
- Reading scripture. It’s been a year, maybe more, since I’ve really dug into scripture for my own spiritual growth.
- Giving. Money, time, talents. If I don’t move forward with the core assumption that everything I possess – from material goods to skills and talents – actually belongs to God, this is destined to fail from the start.
Why am I writing this here? What is doxologist.com?
Doxology is defined as “a hymn or form of words containing an ascription of praise to God,” but the word in its most literal sense means “the study of glory” in much the same way that biology means “the study of life”. Just as there are biologist, I suggest that one who studies the glory of God could be called a doxologist.
This site, then, will chronicle the journey of my attempts to study the glory of God, to become a doxologist, to try to get a better sense of His will, Word, and Spirit. It’s an outlet for the frustrations of my growing pains, for the joy I hope to find in learning new things, a place to enrich the soul and, God willing, a place to teach. This will be a repository for essays, for poetry, for Bible studies, and more.
Here’s hoping you stay, because as I grow, I’m going to need others to help me stay traveling on the right path.
And to act as God’s agents to keep me humble.