Sunday, October 22, 2017

Give From Our True Capacity

MATTHEW 22:15–22
“Give From Our True Capacity”

Tribute to Caesar
Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said.  And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius.  And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”  They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”  And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.

Exploring the Scripture
In today’s passage, an unlikely coalition of Pharisees and Herodians try to force Jesus to answer a yes-or-no question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” (v. 17). No matter which response he chooses, Jesus will be in trouble. Rather than becoming entangled in their web of trickery, Jesus asks for a coin and shows it to them. “Whose head is this, and whose title?” (v. 20) he asks. When they respond that it is the emperor’s, Jesus declares, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (v. 21).

As onlookers to this exchange, it is important to move beyond the tendency to think this passage is only about politics and how Christians should interact with governments. While the story also shows Jesus’ ability to outwit the Pharisees’ malicious intent, we need to go deeper. Jesus is asking them, and us, to distinguish between a government’s jurisdiction and God’s jurisdiction. To whom do we belong? In whatever area we find ourselves—political, social, religious, or economic—we belong to God. All that we have and are comes from a response to a generous God.

Jesus’ response to them does not solve the problem, he simply moves the discussion to a different realm—God’s. 

Daily, we face the struggle of placing God at the center of our living, ahead of worldly priorities. Our call as disciples is to make God's priorities the priority of our lives. God generously gives to us the many blessings we have in our lives. We receive those blessings and respond with thanksgiving and service to others. Giving thanks for what we have, recognizing God’s presence in our lives and God’s blessings among us, helps us gain focus for what is important, the kingdom of God, where all are important.

Central Ideas
We all belong to God because some of God’s spirit is within each of us. That spirit urges us to do good, to be ethical and to do the right thing, not only for others, but also for our own best good.

All that we have and are actually comes from a loving God.  When faced with worldly priorities, disciples of Jesus are called to place God at the center of living—top priority! 

As we consider all that is God’s, our beautiful earth, the very universe we live in, the greatness of God’s generosity is so humbling that we should respond with thanksgiving and service to others as need arises. So let us ask ourselves, what actually takes precedence in our lives? 

For myself, I would have to say God’s spirit, which has attempted to guide my life..all my life,… my family, and my church. I haven’t always paid attention to that quiet wise spirit but as I get older, I have learned to pay more attention.  So how does being aware of God’s generosity influence my decisions..or does it?

I’ve shared my own testimony before but because it pertains to the theme this morning, I will share it again. 

Several years ago, when the World Church began to have problems meeting their annual budget, they asked each of us to consider giving 10% of our total income to the church…some locally, and some to the World Church. I didn’t think I could do that. I had always given 10% of what I had left after I paid my rent, utilities and groceries. But since I live on a limited income, I just didn’t think I could give 10% of that entire income. But I decided to try. 

At first it was a struggle and sometimes I asked Leslie to hold my check until my social security came in but as I learned to manage better, I found it was possible. (Sometimes I still ask Leslie to hold my check). 

I had to buy a car. And then I found I needed a hearing aid. I took a part time job and paid double on my car to pay it off early. That helped.  With the extra funds, I was then able to pay off the hearing aid. I found that gave me $300 more extra each month. As long as I was able to withstand the temptation to spend my money unnecessarily, I was able to pay the full tithe.  

I think that’s the trick really. We all spend money that is really not necessary. Sometimes these purchases are simply luxuries. 

The church is very important to me and if anything happened to my World Church, I don’t know where I would go.  I hold some unorthodox beliefs. And most churches would not tolerate that. My church is different. They are tolerant of person's different beliefs. 

They have a policy called “Faithful Disagreement” which says a person who faithfully disagrees is welcome to share about the church position with which he or she disagrees. The intent of the sharing is to improve the overall faithful response of the church to God’s intended direction without classifying those of us with different beliefs as unfaithful.

I am sure God doesn’t care what beliefs I hold. God knows that none of us really know very much of anything about our God for sure.  We are all on a journey of discovery. The really important thing to do is to search out and try to live the message of Jesus. 

But the church works hard to assist those who are in disaster with their recoveries. As floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey began to recede in and around Houston, Texas, …ministry and assistance was being provided by the World Church and local congregations to displaced members.

The church has committed initial amounts from the Worldwide Mission Tithes budget for immediate Texas Flood Relief aid. They are hoping to receive additional funds from additional earmarked contributions, to be used as needs are identified.

Contributions received will be used for Texas Flood Relief efforts or if financial need is exceeded will then go to Worldwide Mission Tithes where aid will be drawn for any number of future disaster relief efforts. 

Then, just as the church had responded to the need of victims of the Texas disaster, Hurricane Irma hit the islands off the coast of Florida and later even Florida.  The church has responded to that need as well.  

Also Community of Christ is assisting members in the area of Biratnagar, Nepal, after deadly monsoon rains and subsequent flooding hit that region.

Initial funds from the Worldwide Mission Budget have been provided to Nepal for food, water, and temporary shelter for about 105 families. Ram Maharjan, financial officer for the Nepal Mission Center, reports that thankfully floodwaters have receded but anticipates additional funds will be needed to rebuild or fix damaged homes and for ongoing food, water, and clothing needs.

We can support these sorts of relief efforts now through

We also may contribute by writing Nepal Flood Relief, Texas flooding or Hurricane Irma relief or other hurricane assistance on the right side of our offering envelopes. 

More information will be coming about online giving for other disasters .

These designated funds received will go to any of these or other designated needs. Additional funds received will be used either for these relief efforts as needed or will go to Worldwide Mission Tithes.

Please continue to uphold the people of Texas, Florida, the islands off the Florida coast and Nepal in your prayers.

These are just some of the disaster needs the church is currently meeting.  But the financial need is ongoing as disasters occur. The church has members in over 50 countries and attempts to respond to the needs of each in any disaster.  

A statement recently released on explains the urgent need for giving, specifically to Worldwide Mission Tithes. President Steve Veazey reminds Community of Christ members that "sharing for the common good is the spirit of God's kingdom."

He emphasizes that $14.9 million in tithing is still needed by the end of 2017 to meet the Worldwide Mission budget. Without that amount, ministries and staff could be cut.

Church President Veazey points to eTithing, which enables recurring electronic payments. "I invite you to experience the joy of the spiritual practice of generosity," he says. 

So as you can see, regular tithing and offerings are very necessary if we want to keep the church solvent.  I urge each member to tithe regularly and if possible, to tithe a tenth of their income. Let us all try to give from our true capacity. 

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