Whose image do you bear, Caesar’s or God’s?

Whose image do you bear, Caesar’s or God’s?

Thoughts on Mark 12:13-17

image from wildwinds.comApparently, the religious and the politicians were ganging up on Jesus, trying to trap him into making a statement that could wind him up in deep kimchee. They come with flattering words and false faces, but he doesn’t fall for it, he “knows their hypocrisy.”

Jesus, you didn’t fall for theirs and you don’t fall for mine. Sometimes I come to you with proper words and with spiritual-sounding requests, but I’m really trying to get you to do for me what I want you to do for me. My desire is hiding inside the trojan horse of proper liturgy.

Oh Jesus, lord of heaven and earth, thy will be done in my life masks a heart that is not present to the presence of the holy Lord of heaven and earth. What I’m really doing is going through the motions of spirituality hoping you’ll bless me and grant me favor.

You speak to me in the symbol of a coin. Governments stamp a representation of their authority upon their coinage.

Coinage in the ancient world had significant political power. Rulers issued coins with their own image and inscription on them. In a certain sense the coin was regarded as the personal property of the ruler. Where the coin was valid the ruler held political sway over the people. Don Schwager, Servants of the Word

With whose image am I stamped? To whom do I belong? Who holds sway over my life?

These questions shake me awake. You are not a vending machine, useful for my purposes. I cannot force you to align with the values I hold as precious. I cannot use my power to attempt to acquire the desires of my small, limited life.

“Give to Caesar that things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” I belong to you, your image is etched in my soul. Your will done in my life is truly the best. Let all that belongs to Caesar fall away from me. I give to you what is rightfully yours, my life. Thank you and amen.

Maybe you can relate to my experience.

With you on the journey,


You are God’s vineyard. How to be a good one.

You are God’s vineyard. How to be a good one.

Dear friend,

According to Jesus, you are God’s planted vineyard, fully equipped with all you need to produce a bounteous crop of grapes: A hedge marking your boundaries and protecting you from critters and thieves, a dug pit to make space for processing the produce of the vine, a tower granting oversight of the vineyard and a residence. God has provided you all you need to live a good and productive life. Be a good, respectful tenant.

What is the hedge God has built around you? God’s word is your protection, it’s truth holds you safe from predators. Connecting with God’s presence through prayer strengthens the wall that surrounds you. When you thoughtlessly forget God, when you willfully disobey God’s Spirit, the hedge is broken and you are vulnerable to forces that intend your harm. Take a word from God’s heart and carry it with you through the day. It will be your hedge and your returning point.

How do you make space to process God’s activity in your life? Practice what you’ve been taught. Do the good works God’s given you to do. Share God’s love. Remain constant. Transformation from grapes to wine happens in the small details done faithfully.

God has built a tower in your soul, a place where you can retreat and gain perspective. With God, in this place of residence, you more clearly see the big picture. You find rest from the urgency of life’s details and remember you are built for eternity. Today will pass and so will its deadlines. What are you doing that will last forever? How can you transform what you’re doing into eternal values? This is the perspective the tower gives. All is redeemable for eternity. Working with spiritual directees, sure. But feeding the dogs?

Lord grant us eyes that see eternity in the dog chow.

With you on the journey,


What questions do you have for God?

Recently we considered the question Jesus asked of people who sought him out, “What do you want me to do for you?” Shortly after these exchanges Jesus encounters people who have a question or two for him.

First on the scene are the Pharisees and the Herodians, the religious and political elite of the time. (Mark 12:13-17) Their question is based on their desire to trap Jesus, to discredit him, they hope to set him up for failure. They come with flattery on their lips and deceit in their hearts. They pose a query based on the commodity they most value – money, which, of course translates into  power.

Jesus sees through their insincere praise to their intended motive and responds accordingly. He knows their falseness and avoids the trap they think they’ve set.

While studying counseling in graduate school I had a professor who would always tell me that the secret of a good therapist was to “see the game, call the game, but not play the game.” I was to see the dysfunctional pattern of my client, name it is such a way that the client could also see it and then refuse to pulled into the dysfunctional relational or cognitive pattern. Jesus was good at this, he saw their game, named it and refused to play.

They think they’ve backed Jesus into a corner so that whatever answer he gives will get him into trouble, either with the religious or the political powerhouses. He knows what they are up to and sidesteps the trap.

They come to Jesus with false hearts hoping to prove him wrong.

We do this. We come to Jesus with words of praise on our lips and with a personal agenda in our heart. We come to him with a question relating to the commodity we value most, a question that has a right or wrong answer. It usually is crafted as an either/or query. “God, if you are loving, why do I suffer.” In our mind, the answer has to be black or white, one or the other. God is either loving or not. He can’t be both. In this way of thinking it  follows that if I suffer, God must not be loving. In our own way, we’ve set a trap for Jesus.

But he doesn’t play that game. Somehow, beyond our limited ability to comprehend, God can and in fact is both loving and does permit suffering.

The sweet thing about this exchange is that it changed the Pharisees and the Herodians. They approached Jesus with false hearts and impure motives, they left him with respect and awe. Once again Jesus demonstrates that all  questions and questioners are welcomed by him.

Next we’ll look at a group of people with hard hearts who are determined to prove Jesus right.

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