A text notification flashes on my phone. I swipe up. My oldest son and his seven-year-old boy, both with ballcaps turned backward, sit at a red formica table and smile.
“Took little man for a donut this morning.”
The glazed, round pastry in front of them makes my mouth water.
Braden is the spitting image of his dad. A cowlick lifts hair from Braden’s forehead exactly like Josh’s does. His brown eyes twinkle and his lips turn up just the same as Josh’s when he was up to something. Even at three, our grandson walked with style, a specific sway his dad had perfected by second grade. And like Josh, Braden loves playing football, creating art, and laughing. This likeness that Josh and Braden share livens their relationship.
Jesus brought up our likeness with God at the most unlikely time. Tax season. Matthew 22:15-22 captures what happened when a Pharisee attempted to trip Jesus in his words.
“Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?”
They said, “Caesar’s.”
Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
And just like that, Jesus turned the tables on the Pharisee who’d spun the trap. Instead of talking about how corrupt the Roman government was, Jesus reiterated what he’d been saying from the get-go. Follow me. Deny yourself. One thing is necessary. Choose what can never be taken away from you.
Jesus isn’t surprised by our well-played diversions. He just finds new ways to appeal: Caesar can have the money. I want you . . . all of you.
In that ancient garden, when all was as it should be, the serpent held out death. But Adam and Eve saw life. They swallowed it whole. The promise of something better skewed their vision.1
The crazy thing is, today God holds out life and we see death. The ancient serpent still hisses his promise of something better. We read God’s word, consider his commands, and bristle at the restraints. Who wants a drab, dreary life?
This is our grand misstep, the place we get it all wrong. This thing about being made in God’s likeness isn’t some ancient relic with no relevance today. Giving our whole selves to the God who made us in His image is the very thing that makes us come alive.
Yes, Uncle Sam gets a painfully large chunk. But God asks for even more. This doesn’t sound like good news until I consider my son and grandson.
Recently, Josh and Braden were playing a game in our backyard. Braden did something his daddy didn’t like, and Josh let him know. At first, my grandson balked and flailed, unwilling to admit his wrong. After a drab-and-dreary few minutes passed, he conformed his behavior to what his daddy wanted. Before long, they were back at it, hooting with laughter and enjoying the game.
The delightful synergy between my son and grandson as they enjoy each other is a picture of what the Lord desires with us. Yes, I can balk and flail all I want, but there are much better things waiting for me…and for you.
“How precious is your steadfast love, O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light –Psalm 36:7-9
1 Ed Welch’s Created to Draw Near: Our Life as God’s Royal Priests helped to form these thoughts.
1 thought on “Jesus, taxes, and my grandson”
Wonderful analogy!!! I love the story of Josh and Braden. Makes a clear picture of my relationship with God. And I’m working on being more willing to render to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s.