Bible insights from your friends at La Jolla Lutheran Church

Give what is due

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Monday Luke 20:1-8 (NRSV)
One day, as [Jesus] was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, "Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?"

He answered them, "I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?" They discussed it with one another, saying, "If we say, ‘From heaven,' he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?' But if we say, ‘Of human origin,' all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet." So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Then Jesus said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

You don't have to answer every question you're asked. Sometimes the political climate makes it impossible for you to tell the truth and survive. Rather than lie, Jesus refused to answer and showed his opponents that they would not answer in his situation either.

When have you told the truth when the climate was hostile?
When have you remained silent? When have you told a lie?

Tuesday Luke 20:9-15 (NRSV)
He began to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants in order that they might give him his share of the produce of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. And he sent still a third; this one also they wounded and threw out.

Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.' But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.' So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?

If you were the landowner, what would you do to tenants who didn‘t pay rent and killed your son?
What do you think is God's share of the harvest of your life so far? What else? What else? (The extra questions are to provoke you to think that there might be more than one answer.)
How willingly have you given God's share of the harvest to God so far?

Wednesday Luke 20:15b-16 (NRSV)
"What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others." When they heard this, they said, "Heaven forbid!"

Jesus' answer to the question is that the landowner will get rid of the wicked tenants and get new ones. The leaders recognized themselves in the story (see verse 19) and said "Heaven forbid!" The leaders thought they were serving God. Jesus indicated they were so far from serving God that they about to be thrown out of the vineyard.

Given the level of self-deception that is possible, how can a person get an accurate read on their status in God's eyes? Where do you think you stand in God's eyes?

Thursday Luke 20:17-19 (NRSV)
But he looked at them and said, "What then does this text mean: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone'? Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls."

The verse Jesus quotes is from Psalm 118:22. Jesus said what the religious leaders were rejecting (Jesus and his teaching) was the cornerstone, the most important part of the building.

How much of Jesus'' teaching do you follow? What parts do you ignore or reject?

Friday Luke 20:19-21 (NRSV)
When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.

So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor.

So they asked him, "Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth.

The spies who arrived appeared to flatter Jesus. But they were trying to trap him.

Sometimes people who flatter you will have your best interest at heart; sometimes people who flatter you are your enemies.

How do you respond to flattery? How much do you flatter others?

Saturday Luke 20:22-25 (NRSV)
[The spies asked Jesus], "Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?"

They said, "The emperor's." He said to them, "Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's."

Jesus gave the spies an unexpected answer. We live in two kingdoms. We have civic responsibilities to the state, and we should pay taxes and behave as model citizens even if the government is not one you like. (Many of the people Jesus was speaking to actively disliked the government of his day.) But beyond that, we are children of God, and we should also give to God the things that are God's.

How well have you given to the emperor the things that are the emperor's?

What kinds of things do you think are due to God?
How well have you given to God the things that are God's?
What will you do this week because of Jesus? What would you like help with?