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The Scriptorium

What You Owe

Basically, everything. Luke 20.20-26

Luke 20 (4)

Pray Psalm 100.3.
Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Sing Psalm 100.3.
(Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns)
He made us all, and not our hands—His people, we before Him stand.
A faithful Shepherd, He will keep and care for us as His own sheep.

Read Luke 20.1-26; meditate on verses 20-26.


1. What did the “spies” ask Jesus?

2. Where did Jesus’ answer leave them?

Of course, Jesus would not be able to recognize the guile and wiliness of the “spies” sent by the religious leaders. That’s what they thought, at least. And they thought this because they refused to acknowledge Who Jesus is: He is God. He knows the heart of every person (Ps. 33.13-15). Jesus exposed their little “test” right at the beginning (v. 23), then answered with a blow so devastating it left them speechless (v. 26).

This is a familiar incident, and the details are clear enough. But notice two words in Jesus’ answer: “image” and “inscription”: “Whose image and inscription” did this Roman coin bear? “Caesar’s”, of course. So, since the people of that day used Roman coinage and benefited from Caesar’s rule in other ways, they owed a certain debt to him. The image and inscription on the coin reminded them that, since they benefitted from his rule, they must submit to it (to a point, of course).

But those two words would have cued up another line of thought, especially when the second part of Jesus’ answer rang in their souls like a cymbal: “…and to God the things that are God’s.” All who heard Him would have known they were made in God’s image and that He had written (inscribed) His Law on their hearts. They knew what they owed God, and Jesus knew that, in seeking to seize and deliver Him over to “the authority of the governor” (v. 20), they were betraying that image and inscription.

And now they had to consider that as well. In seeking to betray Jesus, were they rendering to God what they owed Him? No wonder “they marveled at His answer and kept silent” (v. 26).

We are made in God’s image. We who believe are being renewed in the likeness of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 3.12-18). We have God’s Law written anew on our hearts (Ezek. 36.26, 27). What do we owe Him for the magnitude of mercy and grace He has shown to us?

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
Let us ponder for a moment the vast and incomprehensible silliness of the chief priests and scribes. They were, in their own minds, the end all be all of religiosity; and yet, they sent spies who were instructed to “pretend to be righteous” (Lk. 20.20). Cue the laugh track. Really? They were sent to pretend?

But hang on, before we get too amused. I must ask myself, “Do I ever pretend to be righteous?” And if I do, “Why would I have to pretend?”

Could it be that I am a faux citizen of the Kingdom of God?
Or maybe I just don’t understand what being in the Kingdom of God is all about?

Jesus clearly showed in His answer to the unmasked pretenders (Lk. 20.23) that there are two kinds of citizenship that we participate in: The kingdom of this world, and the Kingdom of God. “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Lk. 20.25).
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6.24).

The things that are Caesars are strictly material.
God wants our hearts.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 2.33).
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12.1, 2).
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Josh. 24.15).

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22.37-39).

What we owe God is our heart.
When we give Him that, first and foremost, we will never be caught out as pretenders of righteousness.

For reflection
1. What does it mean to devote your heart to the Lord? How would you know if you were not so devoted?

2. Meditate on the words “image” and “inscription” as these apply to you. How does this exercise help you think about your walk with and work for the Lord?

3. What can you do to hear God more consistently as He is calling you into His Kingdom and glory?

Those who are most crafty in their designs against Christ and his gospel, cannot hide them. He did not give a direct answer, but reproved them for offering to impose upon him; and they could not fasten upon any thing wherewith to stir up either the governor or the people against him. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Luke 20.20-26

Pray Psalm 100.1, 4, 5.
Give praise to God, Who made you in His image and likeness and has written His Law on your heart. Call on Him to help you live up to that image and inscription today.

Sing Psalm 1110.1, 4, 5.
(Truro:Shout, for the Bless ed Jesus Reigns)
Shout to the Lord with joy, O earth! With gladness serve His matchless worth!
Before Him sing with joyful words, and know that God alone is Lord!

Enter His gates with thanks and praise; extol His Name through all your days!
Give thanks to Him, and bless His Name! His praise forevermore proclaim!

Good is the Lord, so good and kind; His love we evermore may find.
His faithfulness is ever sure; to every age it shall endure!

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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