There is a story told, which probably never happened - but it is a good story none-the-less.
The King of Sweden wanted to know what it was like just to be a normal human being.
One day, he managed to escape the palace driving a car without a large security detail and no one having knowledge of where he was or where he was going.
Not used to driving a car – he soon exceeded the speed limit and was quickly pulled over by a police office.
The officer asked for his driver’s license and registration.
The king, having never been in this situation before, has no idea what the officer is asking for.
And then the king had what he thought was a brilliant idea – as a form of identification.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out some money and hands it to the officer.
A bribe? No, not that at all. Rather he simply asked the policeman to look at whose picture is on the money – and, of course, there was the king’s face looking out from the bill.
The police officer, after getting the shock of his life – handed the money back, and let the king drive off– warning him to watch his speed.
Wouldn’t that be something that make us feel important – to have our faces on something as precious and indisputably valuable – as money.
Far from a trivial thing as citizens often argue about whose face should, or should not be, on coins and paper money. It says something. It means something – it is important.
“Whose image is this and whose inscription,” asks Jesus when handed a Roman coin.
Of course he knows the Pharisees and Herodians are trying to trap him -
If Jesus says yes to their question about paying the census tax - he will be viewed as being supportive of the Roman occupation.
If he says no, then he will be labeled as a subversive. . .
Jesus doesn’t take the bait and instead answers their question with one of his own: “whose image is this and whose inscription.”
And when they say Caesar – he challenges them to “repay Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.”
So what belongs to God? Well every created thing belongs to God – and most especially — all of US.
WE belong to God, and therefore Jesus is challenging each of us to give ourselves completely over to God – to surrender ourselves to God’s wants, God’s invitation to salvation, God’s will – not our own.
It’s not much of a stretch to say that giving to God what is God’s – is at the heart of a Christian’s life — faith – it’s at the heart of our Christian journey.
I think it is easy to hear this story – and immediately stop thinking about the coin – as it was just something Jesus used to make his point. The story really isn’t about the coin – right?
I’m not so sure. . . for the coin has something to teach us about faith and about ourselves.
We are like that coin – and the similarity is reflected in two important ways.
First, the coin has value – and so do we.
We are worth something. We matter. We are important and precious in God’s eyes.
Truly believing this is a spiritual game-changer – for it allows us to have a healthy kind of love of self that allows us to love others.
If we see ourselves as worthless – it becomes nearly impossible to live as God asks us to live.
And then secondly - -the coin is imprinted with an image – and so are we.
The imprint on each of us is NOT the face we see in the mirror each morning as we brush our teeth. . .
No, the imprint on each of us, the face that has been cast on the precious item that is each of us – is God – the image and likeness in whom we are created.
Think about those two things, just for a second. . .
We are of great value and we have been stamped with the image of God. What a gift. What a blessing – let’s not take it for-granted or try to deny it or hide it.
But is this the face we show to the world??
Or do we show the world something else – someone else??
Do we sometimes put on a mask of indifference or a lack of caring – and show that to the world?
Do we often put on a mask of judgment or prejudice, or criticism – and show that to the world?
Do we put on a mask of self-righteousness - an “I’m better than you” face or attitude?
Do we put on a mask of unkindness or pettiness or lack of compassion??
Masks maybe the thing to wear on Halloween – but they are NOT the thing to wear for life.
What face do we show the world?
Let’s always try, as consistently as we can – to show the compassionate, merciful, loving face of God – because that’s the image and likeness that is stamped on our hearts.
Moments in time...