So says a billboard in Bridgeport, depicting the Wright brothers testing the world’s first successful airplane. It is part of the campaign of the Foundation for a Better Life which began as a simple idea to promote positive values, and is best known for the billboards we see. As I saw the picture I was reminded of a story about their invention…
One day during the early history of the airplane, the Wright brothers were working in their shop. Suddenly, something outside caught Wilbur's eye and he ran to the window. Running outside, Wilbur yelled back, "Orville! Come out here! Look, another aviator is using our patent!"
Orville came running out to see a figure soaring high in the sky. "He certainly is," Orville confirmed. "That's our three-axis control, with simultaneous warping and steering."
"Call the police!" Wilbur shouted. "I'm going to our attorney's! We'll file an injunction immediately! That flyer can't do that to us!"
But Orville, who had been watching through his binoculars, gently restrained his brother. "Hang on, Wilbur. Forget the attorney," he said. "It's a duck."
“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”Jesus moves the conversation of paying taxes to the emperor from what the Herodians and Pharisees wanted to hear, a trap that Jesus couldn’t escape, to a deeper level of truth. Yes, give to the emperor that which is the emperor's, it’s his picture on the coin, give it back to the emperor. And give to God that which is God's.
In his response, Jesus is not saying, "give to the Emperor those things that are the Emperor's, and the rest to God." Nor is Jesus saying, "give to the Emperor the worldly things and give to God the spiritual things."
These statements would put Caesar equal to God, and Jesus would never make the Emperor or his stuff into a golden calf, another thing to be worshipped…
We may give our money back to the government, to the Emperor in the form of taxes, we pay bills with it, we spend it, we save it. But the almighty dollar isn’t almighty, and it belongs to God just as assuredly as we do.
For God created everything that is & by God’s will they were created and have their being. Everything is part of God’s creation. We are made in the image of God. So the answer that Jesus gives, remind us that we owe God everything, & we owe God our lives: how we live them, how we give them away, it’s all important.“Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”
The miracle of flight begins with God, with the duck naturally flying and in the invention & genius of the Wright Brothers and their airplane. Both are truly gifts from God. It’s not about holding on to what we have or to defend it, but to share with our world all the gifts that we have.
So the right question to ask, as Bishop Andy Doyle puts it is, “If all things are God's, how does God want me to use everything?”
Be a talent for creating great food, or signing, or fixing things around here, or reaching out to mentor a child, or to invent, it should make us ponder and think about how God would have me help others with what I have been given. How do I as a steward of God's stuff in my life, understand and enact the kingdom of God through what I do with them? (another way of putting it)
There are emperors in our lives that demand many things of us. Be that at our workplaces, be they the government, even friends, there are many things in our lives that act like Caesar and demand of us our time, talent and even treasure.
Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s…
But we are not to see in those places and those people the true control of our lives, and make them our God. We need not make fortresses to protect what we have done and then give only small offerings to God who has created all things and brings life into the world.
Render unto God the things that are God’s…
What Jesus has done these past few weeks in the parables and again today, is to remind us that God invites us into a sacred relationship with the gardener, with the vineyard owner, with the host of the great banquet, the holy one who is God, the Creator of life. And we are given the privilege of serving as stewards for all the gifts so freely given to us.
All things come from thee O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee, words from King David that we use every week at the 8 AM service. All things come from God and we have the honor to use such gifts as God wishes us to use all things of God’s creation, for it is only then will we soar with God. Amen.