Mark 12:13-17

When our daughter Lena was five, she explained how she knew her younger sister Cora before they were born. I’m not certain she remembers what she described, but she felt she had imparted distinct wisdom to me. The brilliant thing about young children, who are closest to the event of creation, is how in tune they can be with the unadulterated meaning of life that sometimes just streams out of them. Adults can enjoy this truth too, but it takes concerted effort to wade through our jadedness, brokenness, and fear.

Under the guise of seeking truth, some try to trap Jesus with a tax question. He shows them a denarius and instructs, Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s (vv. 17). Jesus’ brilliant response turns mean-spiritedness into a visionary conversation about how to live in God’s image.

We are formed in God’s likeness, marked with the inscription of our Creator. Giving our lives back to God seems daunting. My initial reaction is to demand my individuality, to revolt against the notion that I owe anything back. I feel this strongly when God seems absent. But if I’m courageous enough to work beyond such rebellion, I see that rendering to God what is God’s is not a demand that I become someone I’m not. It’s the direction I need to claim the good, just, passionate person God created me to be and to find my place in the body of Christ. 

We fall for the lie that we’re each an island, and that the estrangement we may feel with God, others, and even ourselves is the real truth. In reality, we are made to connect with God and each other. If we follow Jesus’ instruction, we too find ourselves utterly amazed at him (v. 17).


What does giving your life back to God look like for you today? What creative activity or compassionate act of justice might you pursue?


God, we marvel at your creation, amazed that you ask us to participate in wondrous things. Grant us courage to work through individual despair and connect with your community, so that your Spirit will flow through us. Amen.

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