“Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” (Luke 20:24)
Let’s not make it harder than it has to be.
Jesus responded to a controversial and complex question with a simple and straightforward answer. The question was about paying taxes to Rome. It was the kind of question that could label you, define you, endear you to some and alienate you from others.
Jesus answered by not speaking of taxes. He asked for a coin and spoke of the image it bore. His answer sounds evasive. And in a way, it was. It was obscure enough to slip the trap posed by the questioners. While evasive, Jesus’ words were also obvious, plain as day for anyone to see.
You belong to the one whose image you bear.
Last year during John and Anna’s spring break we went with some friends to Washington D.C. One afternoon was spent at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. The tour allowed us to follow the complex process by which money is made. We began with a stack of paper, a very particular kind of paper, and walked the route by which that paper became money.
It was a painstaking process. Inks were applied and the paper was cut with precision. All of this was carefully watched and assessed at every step until eventually the paper bore the imprint of the Unites States government and the face of a president. It was currency.
What Jesus asked about a coin is worth asking about our lives. Whose likeness do we bear? Whose image do people see when they look at us?
God wants to shape the image of Jesus in us. When people look at us, his is the likeness they should see. It’s a not a quick process. Some steps are missteps. The formation of this likeness requires attention. We don’t acquire the image of Jesus easily. The image is sometimes pressed upon us in hardships and affliction. But the end to which we are headed is the perfection of that image.
In the aftermath of the election it’s a good time to be reminded of a basic truth: We belong to Jesus. The public dialogue surrounding the election tends to identify people with candidates and parties. Followers of Jesus have affinities for parties and candidates – but it is the image of Christ that marks us. We belong to him.
Maybe you woke up this morning a winner. Maybe you woke up a loser. But your calling this day remains unchanged. Will people see a candidate in your demeanor, or will they see the one to whom you truly belong?
In all that I do and say this day, Lord Jesus, may your image be plain for all to see. Remind me of whose I am and give me grace to live this day in a way that draws others to you, that your image may mark their lives too. Amen.