My husband and I have decided to buy a used car from a friend for our daughter to use. The friend is offering us a deal we can’t refuse for a vehicle that should last at least a couple of years. I’ve been online with the Department of Driver Services, trying to figure out the paperwork required when transferring a vehicle title from person to person rather than going through a dealer. The question of who owes who and what is owed has come up often. We want to get this right so the transaction is legal.
Which forms do we fill out, and who do we take them to? Do we need a bill of sale? Where can we find that? What if the seller can’t find the original title? Who owes who what? Can it get any more confusing? I know we’ll get this figured out. There are lots of resources and knowledgeable people to help. But our questions are genuine.
In Matthew’s text, the people asking Jesus the question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (v. 17) already know the answer. They’re not confused. Their question isn’t genuine. Of course it is lawful to pay taxes. That’s part of living in an organized society. These Pharisees are just trying to test Jesus, and he recognizes their intentions. We can almost hear his sigh as he gives them the obvious answer: the coin with Caesar’s face belongs to Caesar (see vv. 19-21). He also says, “Give…to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21).
We owe a lot of people (and businesses) a lot of things. Sometimes it can get confusing to do our own taxes, negotiate with insurance, and deal with the bills we receive. But for the most part, we can find out what we owe.
The bigger question for Christians is, “What things are God’s?” What do we owe the Lord who created us, saved us, and loves us so deeply? The truth is that we can never repay what we owe to God, but we can live our lives in service to the mission of Jesus Christ: loving God, loving others, and sharing the good news of the gospel in every way we can.
• What do you owe, and to whom to you owe it?
• How often do you think about your debts and how to pay them?
• What do you think are “the things that are God’s”?
• How often do you think about what you owe to God and how you can repay what you owe?
• What are some ways you can live in service to the mission of Jesus Christ? How can they be your way of giving God “the things that are God’s”?
Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.
For further resources, subscribe to the Connections Teaching Guide and Commentary. Additionally, the Smyth & Helwys Bible Commentary series is a scholarly but accessible means for enhancing your study of each lesson.