Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
Our Gospel this week, from Matthew 22:15-22, is often misused. I've had this cited even for tax evasion. After all, money in the United States says, "In God We Trust." It belongs to God, right?
Of course, currency here also is issued by the United States Treasury, so you could argue it belongs to them.
When we give the government what is rightly theirs and give God what is rightly His, we are speaking about much more than money. Lutheran theology speaks of two realms, a civil and a churchly realm, both of which are under God's gracious rule. Those realms interact with one another to some extent, but when they are mixed and taken beyond their natural boundaries, all sorts of confusion breaks loose.
In the civil realm, the basic paradigm is that of law. There are rules and essentially those rules are enforced through penalties. If we don't pay the electric bill, the lights are turned out. If we fill out the appropriate permit form, we can have the parade through town. If not, the police can stop us and we can be fined. It's very simple.
In the churchly realm, the paradigm is run by the gospel. It's based on confession and forgiveness. God is working through forgiveness to bring life and salvation.
We should not be confused. The church as an organization lives within the civil realm. The fire code does apply to the church building. But that is the work of the civil realm.
Give to God what is God's. In the churchly realm, count on salvation by grace through faith. Repentance, forgiveness, and restoration are the governing factors. We let God work in His way in that realm. God is also the Lord over the civil order. But he has delegated earthly leaders to operate the civil state. We give the appropriate respect and regard to that order as well. They realms work differently from each other. But they both serve their functions. Both are valuable. Both are good by nature, as God's creation for our good.
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