St. Matthew.jpg

Above And Beyond

Matthew 22:15-22

The Rev. Jon Roberts

18 October

2020

Calvary Episcopal Church

Indian Rocks Beach, FL

15 Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle him in his talk. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Hero′di-ans, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the money for the tax.” And they brought him a coin. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “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 it, they marveled; and they left him and went away.

Caesar's Coin, by Peter Paul Rubens (1612-1614)

There is simply not enough money in the world to buy the love of Christ. We must go above and beyond.[1]

A man was asked to paint a boat. He brought his paint and brushes and began to paint the boat as he was asked. While painting, he noticed a small hole in the hull, and quietly fixed it. When he finished, he took his pay and left. The next day, the owner of the boat came to the painter and presented him with a nice check, much higher than the payment for painting. The painter was surprised and said “You've already paid me for painting the boat Sir!” “But this is not for the paint job. It is for repairing the hole in the boat,” replied the owner. “Ah! But it was such a small task certainly it's not worth paying me such a high amount for something so small.” “My dear friend, you do not understand. Let me tell you what happened: When I asked you to paint the boat, I forgot to mention the hole. When the boat dried, my kids took the boat and went on a fishing trip, not knowing about the hole. I was not at home at that time. When I returned and noticed they had taken the boat, I was terrified because of the hole. Imagine my relief and joy when I saw them returning from fishing. Then, I examined the boat and found that you had repaired the hole! You see, now, what you did? You saved the life of my children! I do not have enough money in this world to repay your ‘small task’.”

There are two types of people. Those who only do what the job requires and those who go above and beyond. As we see in the story, the owner’s children may have died if the painter did not fix the hole. Here is a man who was dedicated to go above and beyond. In our world today how many people have that work ethic? It is called “Employment Engagement” and should be looked at more closely. We always here about unemployment rates and jobs created, but what is going on in the mind of the servant? Well, according to a number of sources there are not many people who are engaged in their work. They are just buying their time, working to pay the bills. The numbers have been steady and reliable. In 2010, 13% of American workers said they enjoyed the work they do while most of the rest say they are just going through the motions. Last year, the number went up slightly to 15%. [2] Several companies say it is very hard to retain employees, even in the midst of this year’s pandemic. There is a “war for talent” and people are shopping for the better job, not just for wage and benefits but one that keeps them safe and provides values they can agree. If these are not met, they hold down the job until the next best thing.[3] Many people are showing up just to paint the boat, but not wanting to fix the holes.

That brings us to today’s theme around taxes. Jesus is approached by those who question the reason for why one works and is it right to give to an unjust government that requires taxes for things they do not affirm.[4] It is safe to say the Herodians who presented the question, wanted to stir up an insurrection against the Roman authorities; against Caesar. They wanted Jesus to get in the same boat and fix the problem. The people of Israel wanted to reclaim their authority and all they needed was a movement to revolt. They were tired of seeing all of their hard earned money going to an occupier who forced them to work for their empire. The Romans may have brought a garrison of soldiers but they also brought engineers who built roads, aquaducts and shipping lanes to bolster the economy. You would think they would be happy, but the rules were tight and the punishment was severe if they did not bow down and bend the knee. Because of this, the people of Israel lost their engagement to serve and find joy in what they did. They could not buy happiness. They could not find love. They had no reason to go above and beyond. But there was a larger hole in bottom of the boat they did not see.

St. Augustine saw what Jesus saw, when he preached. People were seeking love in all the wrong places. It would not be enjoyed by a coup that overturned a tyrant. It would not be found in taking from one and giving to another. You cannot buy such job satisfaction. You cannot buy such love. In his illustration of two cities, one heavenly and one earthly, he equated how we serve, and find purpose and satisfaction in what we do, comes from our motivation to be with Jesus, face to face. In this city, everything is perfectly ordered and is a perfectly harmonious fellowship in the enjoyment of God, a mutual fellowship in God; [where] the peace of the whole universe is the tranquility of order – and order [in] the arrangement of things equal and unequal.” [5]

As Jesus speaks to you today, what is he asking? Do you hear his invitation to belong and to join the mission to help others so that they might live? This type of work is the work of love. Loving Jesus should never be taxing, although it may be hard to get up early and go to church. Loving Jesus should never be dull, although it seems like we only go through the motions. Loving Jesus should not be costly, although there is so little to give. Loving Jesus and in God we trust, is what we are asked to give. Give unto Caesar what belongs to him, but give unto God what belongs to God. You belong to God. He has a beautiful city on a hill that awaits. That is why God came into the world. To go that extra mile for our salvation. All he is asking is that you help paint the boat and plug the holes. You can’t buy his love, but you can go above and beyond.

[1] The Rev. Jon Roberts
[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2013/10/10/only-13-percent-of-people-worldwide-actually-like-going-to-work/
[3] https://blog.smarp.com/employee-engagement-8-statistics-you-need-to-know
[4] Matthew 22:15-22
[5] Robert Wright, Readings from the Daily Office, The Church Pension Fund, 1991.pp.418-19.

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