This coming Sunday is traditionally when Sanctity of Human Life has been marked in church calendars across the country. The date was chosen back in the 80’s to commemorate the anniversary of the Roe decision. This year is different – the country is under a new (old) precedent.
A lot has changed across the country since Dobbs was decided. Laws have been added to the books in some states protecting pre-born children earlier than was previously possible. In the few months post-Dobbs, abortion appears to have fallen by 6% nationally.
As we know, our own community is a different story.
I recently had a conversation with a First Image supporter. We discussed the fact that if you live in Oregon, we know our tax money supports abortion. In fact, that funding has increased since Dobbs was decided.
If you believe – as I do – that pre-born children deserve our care and protection, then the fact that our money is used for something so destructive is rightly disturbing. It can be hard to know how to navigate that reality.
You might remember that Jesus was presented with a similar conundrum. In fact, a group of people tried to use some situational ethics to trap Jesus, with false flattery and a seemingly impossible question: “Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
Famously, Jesus requests the coin of the realm and asks – rhetorically, of course – whose image and inscription is on the coin.
“Caesar,” they answer. Obviously.
Jesus responds, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s.”
To this day, a brilliant and challenging answer.
To the Jews, Caesar represented brutal and oppressive Roman rule, whose imperialism was primarily funded by taxing the conquered masses. It was, by any objective measure, much worse than modern-day America. We don’t live under a brutal and oppressive regime equivalent to the conquering Rome of antiquity. Yet, the government we are under at times chooses to do evil and requires, under penalty of law, that we fund it.
Knowing that the money we’ve earned will be used for life-destroying ends may make us wonder whether we should support the government with our money at all. Should we even pay taxes? A still relevant question, over 2,000 years later.
Jesus’ answer to that question is illuminating. He knows Caesar will do evil with the money, but he shifts the attention.
It’s Caesar’s face on the money. His government issues and controls it. So, give him his money. And, give to God what belongs to God.
So what belongs to God?
The right answer is all of it. Everything we have. We are stewards and managers of a gift. We can be good stewards or bad ones. Good managers or poor ones.
Therefore, the money isn’t really mine on any level. Some goes to the government, to whom God has given authority and stewardship of its own (for which it will be held to account), but all of it is God’s.
I think there’s something helpful and illuminating here. Jesus shifts attention from what Caesar is doing with Caesar’s money, to what we are doing with what belongs to God.
It’s not that what the government does isn’t important. It matters; certainly, it does. And in our country, we have some freedom to have some influence over it. But it’s not the emphasis for the Christian. Our emphasis is on the work of God in the world.
So, when the world is feeling notably world-like, we have a set of choices. We can choose to lean into the sense of injustice over what Caesar does with his money. Or, we can choose to lean into the stewardship of God’s gifts to His ends in the world. That means our money and things. It also means our time, our talents, our relationships, and all the rest. Rather than a reactive focus on what’s wrong with wherever we live, it’s a proactive focus on how we are joining the work of God in the world.
In this first Sanctity of Human Life season after Dobbs, I find this a helpful perspective. Personally, it’s both encouraging and challenging. A reminder that our attention rests more comfortably, and the work is more fruitful, when we focus more on giving God what belongs to Him, and less on whatever Caesar might be up to.
For us here in Oregon, I think that means keeping our attention on the work God is doing in our community – which is more than we can possibly comprehend – and joining him in that work as stewards of all we’ve been given.
Your Fellow Follower,
Luke Cirillo, CEO