Pastor Scott Hannon
St. John Lutheran Church Amherst, NY
One of my son’s first words was, “Mine.” He is one-and-a-half and the youngest child of our three. He has two older sisters who have routinely snatched toys, food, blankets, and stuffed animals from his hands. And so, early on he picked up this simple word and has shouted it with ferocity far more than any other thing he has said.
“Mine!” John shouts while devouring grapes.
“Mine!” John announces as he points to the swing.
“Mine!” John cries as his sisters rip toys from his hands.
“Mine!” John asserts as he meanders through the playroom.
From the throne of his highchair our high king, John, daily declares, “Mine. Mine. Mine,” as he pounds his chest and points around the room.
The thing is, most of the stuff John thinks is “mine” actually aren’t. And, even the stuff that is his is only his because he received it as a gift.
As I look around the world right now I see a whole bunch of big people shouting, “Mine!” As tax codes are discussed in congress, people of all brackets say mine. As debates on gun control continue, people on all sides say mine. Employers and employees are quick to point out what’s mine. Husbands, wives, parents, and children, lay claim to parts and pieces of the house with declarations of mine. To friends and strangers, to relatives and acquaintances we often find ourselves asserting what’s mine.
Cries of my money, my rights, my room, my body, my house, my country – mine, mine, mine – fill our land. And I can’t help but wonder… is it really all mine? And if it is, how much of it have we received as gift?
In the gospel of Matthew, the religious leaders, who felt threatened by Jesus, try to trap him by asking him a question about taxes. See, even back then tax code was a touchy subject that created a lot of cries of mine! The religious leaders knew that people were reticent to give what was theirs to others and they hoped that Jesus would lose popularity with the crowds by suggesting that they should give a portion of their income to the government.
Unfortunately for those religious leaders, Jesus does not fall into their trap. Rather, Jesus takes the question of what’s mine and helps the crowd see the bigger picture as he suggests that they consider not what is theirs, but what is God’s. “Give to the emperor that which is the emperors; give to God that which is God’s,” Jesus says.
You belong to God. Everything we have is a gift from God. Our breath, our homes, the food on our plates, the people in our lives, our jobs, and even creation itself is all gift. It is not mine or yours. It’s God’s. And so, instead of running around pounding our chests declaring mine, we are invited to see that which we share – that which we borrow – and all that we have to give.
God calls us today to set aside the infant and carnal desires to shout mine. We are called to practice radical hospitality, to live peaceably, and to love unconditionally. May your thinking today shift from get to give, from hoard to share, from take to offer. And in doing so, may you find yourself not lessened or diminished, but blessed beyond belief.
Everything is gift. Everything is borrowed. Everything is God’s.
“Give to the emperor that which is the emperor’s,” Jesus says. “Give to God that which is God’s.”
In the Way,
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Scott and Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.