Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Devotions: Entrapment

Sunday Lectionary Verse

Matthew 22:21b Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

Entrapment is something we used to see happening in every Perry Mason, Matlock or Columbo show. Right at the very end of each episode, the criminal would say or do something that would instantly reveal their guilt. There was also a kids' program called Scooby Doo, where the villain was finally unmasked in the dying seconds of the show. All of these programs followed the same formula, so that eventually viewers began to know who the culprit was, long before you got to the end of the show.

Jesus is facing the same kind of classic formula of entrapment in this episode from the Gospel. The Pharisees are out to get Him, so they ask Jesus a trick question. They've worked out in advance that if He says it's right to pay taxes to Caesar, then they could charge Him for collaborating with the enemy and get the people to stone Him. If Jesus answered that it wasn't right to pay tribute to Caesar, they could then report Him for sedition against the Emperor and have the Roman governor execute Jesus for treason. They really don't care how He answers their question; all they want is something to use against Him.

But Jesus knows all about their little game. He's way ahead of them, so He gives them an answer that they haven't anticipated, which astounds them. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." In other words, pay your taxes and honor God.

As Christians, other people sometimes assail us about our beliefs. If we try to be clever with our answers, we'll end up in a theological tussle or a doctrinal muddle. However, if we are true to Christ and depend upon the Holy Spirit during those moments when we are called to defend our faith, He'll give us the right words to say, at the right time, to the right people.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes we feel that our beliefs are being personally attacked. Sometimes those attacks come from strangers, but more often as not, those piercing questions and taunting remarks are expressed by other church members and Christian colleagues. Give us the right words to say and keep us from being fearful or unfaithful. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie is the writer of the daily devotional "Heaven's Highway," which is also podcasted at


Viola said...

Thanks Stushie,
That’s a good reminder. Being true to Christ when we give answers is often just a simple affirmation of his gift to us and them, (if they will receive it) of his death and resurrection. I find myself making it too complicated.

Sarahlynn said...

Another nice one; thanks.