Matthew 22:15-22
15 Then the Pharisees went and took counsel to entangle Him in His words. 16 They sent their disciples to Him with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God truthfully, and are swayed by no one. For You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness and said, “Why test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.” They brought Him a denarius. 20 He said to them, “Whose is this image and inscription?” 21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard these words, they were amazed, and left Him and went on their way.

Philippians 3:17-21
17 Brothers, become fellow imitators with me and observe those who walk according to our example. 18 For many are walking in such a way that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. I have told you of them often and tell you again, even weeping. 19 Their destination is destruction, their god is their appetite, their glory is in their shame, their minds are set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, from where also we await for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our body of humiliation, so that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working of His power even to subdue all things to Himself.

Though the legal challenges continue, we in the United States of America have just held a general election and through it, God appoints earthly rulers to rule over us and to preserve peace and civil order among us.

The Scriptures reveal to us God’s purpose in placing civil rulers over us.

In 1 Peter 2:13-17, we read: “Submit yourselves to every human authority for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king, as supreme, or to governors, as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and to praise those who do right. For it is the will of God that by doing right you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. As free people, do not use your liberty as a covering for evil, but live as servants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”

In 1 Timothy 2:1-4, we read: “Therefore I exhort first of all that you make supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings for everyone, for kings and for all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

So, we see that God gives us rulers to punish evildoers and praise those who do what is good and right that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life and be able to preach God’s Word and also worship Him and serve Him in accord with His Word. And, indeed, such rule of government is needed that God’s Word might be preached among us and to those lost that all might repent of their sins and trust in Christ as their Savior.

While the people of this world remain under the spiritual kingdom and rule of darkness, we believers have our second citizenship (our primary citizenship) in heaven, in God’s kingdom, and we await the return of our Savior to change our weak and humble bodies into glorious and heavenly bodies like that of our Lord Jesus.

In Philippians 3:20-21, we read: “But our citizenship is in heaven, from where also we await for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our body of humiliation, so that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working of His power even to subdue all things to Himself.”

The question we consider today is how do we live in a God-pleasing way as members of two kingdoms — the kingdom or rule in which God placed us in this world and in the kingdom of our crucified and risen God and Savior? We look to the Word of God for the answer.

The Jewish people in Jesus’ day faced this same dilemma. They counted themselves as a nation and kingdom under God’s rule and law, and yet their nation was under the rule of the Roman caesar — an unbelieving ruler whose laws certainly were not in full accord with the Scriptures.

The Pharisees sought to use this dilemma to their advantage against Jesus by sending some of their disciples, along with political supporters of King Herod, to Jesus with the question: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

They wanted a yes or no answer because, if Jesus said yes, they could accuse Him of being a traitor in regard to His own people and a sinner for voicing support for a pagan and corrupt Roman ruler. If Jesus said no, the Herodians would bring word to Herod that Jesus was advocating insubordination and rebellion against the king, which would likely have meant arrest and execution by Herod.

But Jesus was not fooled by their words of flattery or by the purpose of their question, and Jesus’ answer still gives us direction today as citizens of God’s kingdom and yet citizens of earthly kingdoms.

Jesus asked for a coin used to pay taxes to the Roman ruler and asked, “Whose is this image and inscription?” And when they answered, “Caesar’s,” He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Verse 22 tells us that “when they heard these words, they were amazed, and left Him and went on their way.” But, as I said, these words of Jesus still apply to us today.

Like the Caesars and the Roman emperors, our rulers and government officials are often anything but godly and just. Not only was homosexuality and pedophilia common in the Roman Empire, but unwanted infants and children were abandoned on the dung heaps to die. And our rulers, many falsely claiming to be Christian, have stooped to the same depths of depravity — supporting the killing of unborn children, euthanizing the old and the so-called “useless,” defending the practice of homosexuality, and the list goes on.

And we must remember that it was under the godless rule of the Romans that Jesus said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” The Romans ruled (and it was possibly under the reign of Nero) when Paul wrote the words of Romans 13:1-7: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil works. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from him, for he is the servant of God for your good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain, for he is the servant of God, an avenger to execute wrath upon him who practices evil. So it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for the sake of conscience. For this reason you also pay taxes, for they are God’s servants, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, respect to whom respect is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.”

So, how should we live as citizens of the United States, even if God gives authority to rulers and a government which support abortion, euthanasia, sexual perversion and other evils? Whose image is on our coins and currency? And, perhaps we should ask who defends us from foreign armies? Who arrests and punishes evildoers and provides us with at least some degree of peace and safety? Who builds our roads and provides countless other services? Who provides us with Medicare and sends us Social Security checks. So, unless we are willing to give up all the benefits our government provides, we are to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s — as St. Paul writes, “Render to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, respect to whom respect is due, fear to whom fear is due, and honor to whom honor is due.”

But Jesus also said we are to render “to God the things that are God’s.” What does this mean?

We are also citizens of Christ’s kingdom, and thus our focus is on Christ and on His eternal kingdom. We do not set our minds on earthly things or to gratify the longings of our flesh, we set our minds on the things of God and seek to live as children of God, looking forward to the day of Christ’s return and our being changed into his image and likeness.

St. Paul wrote to the Colossians (3:1-4): “If you then were raised with Christ, desire those things which are above, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on earth. For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear, then you also shall appear with Him in glory.”

We are to put off our old sinful nature with its evil works and put on the new nature which is ours in Christ and live in accord with God’s Word. As St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians (Eph. 4:22-24), we are to “put off the former way of life in the old nature, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and … put on the new nature, which was created according to God in righteousness and true holiness.”

How does this relate to our duties as citizens in this world? We do all in our power to support rulers who uphold what is good and right according to God’s Word, and we expose the sin and hypocrisy of those who live and rule contrary to God’s Word, warning them of the eternal consequences of their sins and calling them to repent of their evil ways, look to the LORD God for forgiveness and then conform to God’s Word.

And when it comes to our obedience to civil rulers, we obey and honor them where we can but, should rulers forbid what God commands or command what God forbids, we answer with Peter and the apostles (Acts 5:29): “We must obey God rather than men.”

In this way, we render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and to God the things which are God’s.

And what if we have disobeyed God by failing to render to our rulers the honor due them or to God the honor due to His name? What if we have failed to obey civil rulers, neglected or circumvented paying our taxes, grumbled or complained about our rulers, spoken evil of them or neglected to pray for them?

And, what if we have failed to render to God the things which are God’s? What if we have used government laws and guidelines to excuse our disobedience to God’s commands? What if we have neglected God’s Word and Sacrament? What if we have failed to speak the words of God in fear of government retribution? What if we have failed to live as citizens of heaven and have become overly focused on the things of this world?

The answer is to repent — to examine our lives in the light of God’s Word, to acknowledge our disobedience and failings and to look to Christ and His cross for pardon and forgiveness and for the strength to amend our lives and live for Him.

John writes (1 John 2:1-2): “My little children, I am writing these things to you, so that you do not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

God grant to you pardon and forgiveness for all your sins through faith in Jesus and His cross, and God grant to you the wisdom and the strength to “render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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What is the most concerning thing about the 2020 election? It’s not so much about who won and who lost — the votes are still being counted as I write this and legal battles are likely to follow. It’s not even the allegations of fraudulent votes being added to the tallies in order to alter the true results of the election, although such, if true, would undermine the very core of a government by the people.

What’s most troubling is the fact that so many Americans, in many cases our neighbors and coworkers, voted against life for the unborn and elderly, against Biblical marriage and family, against the God-given right to protect life and property, against the freedom to preach and teach God’s Word, against our nation’s founding documents as written, and, sad to say, for immorality and humanism. It’s certainly fair to say that people may have voted for or against a candidate for other reasons, but many voted as they did because of support or opposition to a political platform.

As a student of the Bible and a preacher of God’s Word, I can tell you that one cannot be or continue to be a Christian and also continue to reject the teaching of the Bible regarding life and morality. One cannot be a follower of Christ and look to Him and His cross for pardon and forgiveness and at the same time set aside what He said about serving Him, about little children and babies, about the elderly, about marriage, about property, and about continuing in sin and immorality.

What this election indicates is that many, many people in this nation, even many professing to be Christian, are not Christian at all since they oppose the teaching of Christ, the Son of God, who reveals Himself as our creator in the Bible, who was there with Abraham discussing the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah and then raining down fire and brimstone on the cities of the plain, who spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai giving him the Ten Commandments and again in Leviticus 18 condemning sexual perversion, who commanded the utter destruction of the wicked inhabitants of Canaan, who commissioned the Apostle Paul and gave to him the teaching written in his epistles, and who pointed out the sinfulness of lust and adultery, etc.

While God is gracious and forgives the sins of penitent sinners who look in faith to Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, He also judges those who rebel against Him and reject His words (cf. Ex. 20:5-6; 1 Sam. 12:15; Isa. 30:1; 63:10).

If there was any question beforehand, this election makes clear to us that the United States of America is not a Christian nation and that many who hold church memberships are likely not Christians and will end up in eternal torment unless they repent of their sinful and rebellious ways and look to Christ and His cross for pardon and forgiveness.

But, perhaps most importantly, this election tells us that we have much mission work to do. We live among the lost in a nation which has lost its way.

It will do no good to impose Biblical morality on ungodly people by government legislation and enforcement. What is needed in America is a change of heart among the people. We as Americans need to see that we have sinned against the Lord God who created us and sent His Son to redeem us. We need to acknowledge our sins and the judgment we deserve and then look in faith to the crucified and risen Christ Jesus for pardon and forgiveness.

Our mission work, as Christians, is to first read and study the Word of God and then to share the Bible’s teaching with our friends, neighbors and coworkers, for it is only through the speaking and hearing of God’s Word that the Holy Spirit will convict our guilty hearts of sin and then assure us of forgiveness and life eternal through faith in Jesus.

When we think of mission work, distant lands and unfamiliar languages and people often come to mind, but this election shows us that we have much mission work to do right here at home. We live in a largely pagan nation, among a people that does not know God and knows little of His Word!

How important it is for us to hear and study the Scriptures ourselves and also pray that the Lord of the harvest would raise up men to faithfully and boldly preach and teach His Word that our friends, our neighbors and our coworkers, too, would hear, repent of their sins and look to Christ Jesus and His cross for mercy and forgiveness!

Only by preaching the saving Gospel to the souls of our friends and neighbors can the heart and soul of this nation be changed into one that fears the Lord God and seeks to govern its affairs according to the truth revealed in His Word.

God grant that we pray and then rise to the task!

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Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21-22 (Read 21-35)

How often should we forgive a brother or sister who sins against us? This is the question Peter asked of Jesus.

Note Jesus’ answer: “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Jesus did not mean only 490 times, but all the time! Like our Lord, we are always to be “good and forgiving” (Psalm 86:5).

The parable of the unforgiving servant illustrates Jesus’ point to Peter. A certain servant owed the king such a great amount that he would never be able to work off and repay his debt. When the king justly would have sold him and all that he had to recover at least a part of this debt, the servant pleaded for mercy. The king was moved to compassion and forgave the entire debt.

We, like the first servant in this parable, owe to God a greater debt than we can ever repay. Our sins against the LORD God are so great that there is no hope of us ever repaying or making amends for our sins — even thinking that we could do so is foolishness. God’s law demands that we be cast into hell’s eternal prison and suffer there forever the just penalty for our sins. Cf. Rom. 3:9ff.; 6:23a.

Indeed, there is nothing we can do but plead for mercy!

And God, like the king in Jesus’ parable, is merciful. He sent His only-begotten Son into the world to live a righteous and holy life in our stead and then pay in full the debt of our sins and the sins of all by suffering our just punishment as He was crucified and died upon the cross. God accepted His atoning sacrifice and raised Him up and, in the Gospel, God offers to us in Christ mercy instead of judgment, forgiveness instead of eternal damnation (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-4; Rom. 3:21ff.; 5:6ff.).

When we look to God in faith, seeking His mercy in Christ Jesus and for the sake of Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross, God graciously forgives our entire debt of sin. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

But then there is the second part of Jesus’ parable. This same servant went out and found a fellow servant who owed him only a very small and insignificant amount in comparison with the huge debt which had been forgiven him. Rather than showing mercy to this servant as he had been shown mercy by his lord, he refused to forgive this small debt and “threw him in prison until he should pay the debt.”

When the king saw that his compassion and forgiveness had no effect on this unforgiving servant, he was angry and “delivered him to the jailers until he should pay all his debt.”

In our earthly lives, others sin against us many times; but this debt of sin, though it may seem great to us, is small and insignificant in comparison with the great debt of sin that the LORD God has forgiven us for Jesus’ sake. As a fruit of our faith, and as a result of God’s great mercy to us in Christ Jesus, we ought also to forgive those who sin against us, even “up to seventy times seven” (cf. Eph. 4:32).

It is as Jesus said in His parable: If we refuse to forgive from our hearts those who sin against us, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us; instead, He will cast us into the fires of hell to pay in full the punishment due unto us! Cf. Matt. 6:12,14-15.

Forgive our sins, Lord, we implore, remove from us their burden sore, as we their trespasses forgive who by offenses us do grieve. Thus let us dwell in charity and serve our brother willingly. Amen. — “Our Father, Thou in Heaven Above,” Martin Luther, The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn 458, v. 6

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven.” Colossians 4:1

Not only does God require employees and servants to wholeheartedly serve their employers and masters; He requires masters and employers to pay a just and fair wage to their servants and employees.

Christian employers — those who acknowledge their own sinfulness and shortcomings and trust in Christ Jesus and His shed blood for forgiveness and life everlasting — will remember they belong to the LORD God who created and redeemed them. They, too, have a Master in heaven they serve and to whom they shall give an account.

Therefore, they will not want to cheat their employees out of fair pay for their work and a fair share in the profits they have produced by their labors. To do so would be stealing and is forbidden by God’s commandment: “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15).

God’s Word warns: “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates: at his day thou shalt give him his hire, neither shall the sun go down upon it; for he is poor, and setteth his heart upon it: lest he cry against thee unto the LORD, and it be sin unto thee” (Deut. 24:14-15).

The Bible further warns: “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour’s service without wages, and giveth him not for his work…” (Jer. 22:13).

The will of God in this matter is often ignored and overlooked. Instead of paying employees a fair wage for their work and for the benefits they produce, employers often pay as little as possible in order to increase their own profits. Thus, it often happens that many grow rich off the labor, skills and ideas of others while those who have produced the wealth struggle to survive.

Even though employers may be able to take advantage of their employees in this world, ultimately, God will judge; and He will punish those who have withheld just wages and mistreated those under their authority (cf. Luke 16:19ff.).

Employers and masters who acknowledge the LORD and the truthfulness of His Word will acknowledge their sin in regard to their employees and turn to the LORD God for His mercy and forgiveness and for His help and strength to do what is right.

For the sake of Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world, there is forgiveness with the LORD. And in Christ Jesus, there is also help and strength to amend one’s ways and do what is good and right.

O LORD God, You have made me and all people. Forgive me for taking advantage of the work and labor of others without just reward and fair payment. Forgive me for the sake of Jesus and His sufferings and death for my sins and the sins of the whole world. Cleanse my heart and my ways, and move me to love and serve the needs of those who work under me in the same way as Christ Jesus loved me and gave Himself — even dying on the cross — to earn my salvation and a place in His eternal kingdom. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” 1 John 3:1-3

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). We see this love in the following:

• Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. He humbled Himself, suffered and died on the cross for the sins of all, and rose again on the third day, having won forgiveness of sins and life everlasting for all mankind.

• He now — through the preaching of His Word — calls sinners to repent of their sinful ways and trust in Him and His shed blood for full and free forgiveness and for the everlasting joys of heaven.

• When by the grace and mercy of God, we are brought to see our sinfulness and to turn to Jesus for forgiveness and life in Him, we become children of God — saved by His grace alone. We have an inheritance in heaven and look forward to the day when Jesus our Savior returns to take us to live with Him in holiness and righteousness, forever with our God and Savior.

We can’t even begin to understand what it will be like when we are raised up in — or changed into — His image. The Bible tells us: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2; cf. Rom. 8:29).

Now, as believers, we are faultless before our heavenly Father because of Christ’s righteous life and atoning sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world, but we look forward to that day when we are free of all sin and can indeed serve our God in righteousness and purity forever.

We confess in our catechism (Luther’s explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed): “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own, and live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.”

While we await that day, we strive — led and aided by God’s Holy Spirit — to be more and more like our Savior. The Bible says, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3).

St. Paul describes it this way in his letter to the Philippians (Phil. 3:8-14): “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

But the day will come, “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52; cf. Phil. 3:20-21).

When that day comes, we shall be changed into the image of our Lord Jesus. “We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”

As believers in our Lord Jesus, we can join with David in his psalm and say: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

What a day that will be!

Dear Lord Jesus, we thank You for redeeming us with Your holy and precious blood and for graciously bringing us to repent of our sins and trust in You for forgiveness and life. By Your Spirit, keep us in the faith and move us to seek to be more and more like You until that day when You return and we are changed into Your likeness and dwell with You forevermore. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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