–By Elizabeth Ahlman
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away (Matthew 22:15-22 ESV).
So often we get caught up in rendering what we think God might want: righteous indignation over the PC police, Facebook rants, random boycotts and even our shiniest most special works. Amid the daily struggles of just getting through each day in one piece, we heap more burdens on ourselves as we take on these tasks we think God wants from us. And when we are exhausted by all of our striving, ranting, and righteous indignation, we collapse and finally ask, “What is it that You want, Lord?”
“Render unto God the things that are God’s.” Praise, adoration, worship and thankfulness are all things which are God’s and God’s alone to be rendered to Him — perfectly, continually and with the utmost sincerity. Are we able to render that fully what is due Him? Do we spend every second of every day in thankful adoration? Do we perfectly praise Him? And so following the question of what the Lord wants, we must state the truth as we fall into despair: “I cannot render what God wants rendered perfectly, continually and with the utmost sincerity. What am I to do?”
In that place of exhaustion and repentance, Jesus steps forth as the One who has rendered to God the Father all that He is due, perfectly, continually and with the utmost sincerity. He has offered up the most perfect worship by giving Himself as a perfect sacrifice and offering. He stands continually before the Father pleading on our behalf and making our imperfect praise, adoration and worship into a fragrant offering before the Father. He gives us the words to speak and sing and the gifts of which to partake such that we may also render to God what is God’s. He puts His very Words into our mouths so that we might offer the most perfect praise of all: that of recounting the wonderful Work of salvation which He has rendered to God the Father for us. And so we open our mouths with the Words He has gifted us and trust that He has redeemed even our worship and praise. We speak those words back to Him such as in the Psalm appointed with this Gospel reading:
Praise the LORD!
I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,
in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the LORD,
studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
he has commanded his covenant forever.
Holy and awesome is his name!
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all those who practice it have a good understanding.
His praise endures forever (Psalm 111 ESV)!
Let us Pray: Dear Lord, so often we fail in rendering to You what is truly Yours. If we do give You what is Yours, we do it imperfectly, stained with the sin we inherited and the sin we commit. Thank You for making our praise perfect through Your Son, Jesus Christ and His perfect offering so that we may rest from our labors, trust in Your gracious promises and render to You what is Yours with the very Words You have placed in our mouths. Grant that we may ever trust in this reality and rest in Your forgiveness through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.