Money & Taxes
20th Sunday After Pentecost
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and His only Son Jesus Christ, Amen.
“I work all night, I work all day, To pay the bills I have to pay.
Ain't it sad?
And still there never seems to be, A single penny left for me
That's too bad”
- Björn Ulvaeus & Benny Andersson, Stig Anderson – ABBA (1976)
These lyrics come from a popular Swedish pop group called ABBA. It was one of their big hits in 1976. Others may remember a musical called ‘Cabaret’ with its popular song, ‘Money Money’.
For thousands of years, cultures have been imprinting their leader’s likenesses on their coins, notes and other forms of legal tender tokens for commerce. These images have consisted of kings, presidents, tribal chiefs and even deities.
Yes, ‘money’ has been around for a long time, and one would think that the invention of currency and capitalism spawned the ever dreaded ‘taxes’, but that is not the case. Taxes existed long before any standardized form of currency. Take for instance Genesis 47:23-24
Then Joseph said to the people, “Indeed I have bought you and your land this day for Pharaoh. Look, here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. And it shall come to pass in the harvest that you shall give one-fifth to Pharaoh. Four-fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and for your food, for those of your households and as food for your little ones.” [Gen 47:23-24]
As you can see from this example, gold, silver, or other precious metals were not necessary for taxation. Seed, grain, even servitude and slavery were used to pay taxes. Even some of you may feel indentured to your work or our government. If you have ever had a job or business, you know the pain that comes every year on April 15th.
In order to increase our comfort in this life, we think we must increase the amount of money we have. After all, with more money comes the ability to buy a better home, a larger farm, or more people to work your business.
With money comes security. With it, we can ensure a better education for our offspring so that they can make more money and have a better life than we have. With money, we can insure our property and our very bodies, so that we can be reimbursed for any loss. Money can even give us power over others.
Since the beginning of these United States of America, the quest for riches has been a driving force. Immigrants to this country were often told that the streets here were ‘paved with gold’, which was, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, a saying used in England about a city to mean that it was easy to make money there. Immigrants still come to our shores and borders because of the hope for prosperity or to escape an oppressive regime.
In this land of hope, we are all inundated with the promises of instant wealth. We struggle in our labor so that we might ‘get ahead’ of our neighbor. The pursuit of financial security is no sin, yet if we place our desire for riches over God, we are destined to get exactly what we deserve; death and eternal separation from our Creator and Redeemer.
God is ruler over all the earth and all the governments on the earth. God has made everything that exists, including you and me, yet we still fall into the same sin of coveting our neighbor’s possessions. We consistently put our wants and desires on the top of the list, our self-importance as our first order of business. We want to be in control and we don’t want to have to give any of our hard-earned wages to anyone.
Everybody wants to be the king so that we do not have to pay allegiance. We want to be on top of the pyramid so that we do not have to be faithful to anyone but ourselves. We even sacrifice our friends and family in order to get that next dime. We think that what we possess is ours, even though as the Lord said to Cyrus;
I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who calls you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.’ [Isaiah 45:3a, 6b,7]
Our Lord has done great and wonderful things, all things, for us. We confess it in the Apostle’s Creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. He has made me and all creatures. He gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.
What is more important is that He sent His only Son, our Lord to take upon him our debt of sin. Jesus Christ took away from us a debt we could never repay. The exchange rate of our sins for eternal life was too high. By our own works and strength, we can never earn our way to righteousness and eternal life.
How could we ever be redeemed? Through the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who redeemed me, a lost and condemned person. It was Jesus who 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.
Jesus Christ did this that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
When I was about 15 years old, I was at a hotel which also had a convention center. At that time, a Numismatic, that is, a coin collecting convention was being held in the center. One of the shop owners in the hotel had purchased a United States $1000 bill. It was in a protective plastic sleeve and he let me look at it up close. He didn’t let me touch it, but he did let me examine it on the shop’s counter.
Never seeing a bill of this monetary size before, I was interested in this rarity. The ink was not very vibrant and I was told the man had paid over $2000 dollars for this note. As a young man, I thought it was foolish to spend more than the actual amount of the bill just to keep and never spend. Little did I know that I would never see a bill of that size in person ever again.
My cousin collected wheat-back pennies and my father collected silver dollars. People today by gold or silver coins for financial security. Throughout history, currency ranged from horses, lambskins, cowry shells, precious metals, cocoa beans, large stones, and gems.
In the end, these coins or bills mean nothing. They are only precious to other people. They are only good for paying taxes, for giving unto Caesar what is rightfully his. This is the currency of the kingdom of this world and not the kingdom of God.
Our treasure lies in the salvation of Jesus Christ. Our inheritance is life eternal with our father in heaven. The Apostle Paul says in his letter to the church at Thessalonica:
“For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” [1 Thessalonians 1:4–7]
The Greek word used here for example means = a mark made as the result of a blow or pressure. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are like a precious metal, formed in the fire of the Spirit and stamped with the imprint of Christ. People now see Christ permanently marking us as his precious treasure.
Instead of the image of an earthly king, whose wealth remains on earth; we are in the image of Christ, whose wealth is our souls to be gathered up in His Father’s house for all eternity. Through Christ’s redeeming act of sacrifice, we are now a precious possession of God Almighty. Instead of a poor king here on earth, we have a rich and gracious Father in heaven. We no longer need to seek the riches of man-made currency only to reject the grace of our Creator.
If we make the gathering of earthly treasure our only goal, we will receive our just reward. On that final day, Jesus Christ will ask us, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” If we bear the stamp of Caesar, Christ will say, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s… and to God the things that are God’s.”
Now is time to spread the wealth. By the command of Christ, we are to tell everyone the good news of His atoning work. It is time to turn from the idol of money and to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. [1 Thessalonians 1:10] It is time make believers of Christ the coin of the realm. Now is time to give God what is God’s.
 Songwriters: Benny Goran Bror Andersson, Bjoern K. Ulvaeus
Money Money Money lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management