by Becky Snell
Matthew 22:15-22

Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.
~Matthew 22:21

Jesus’ response to the tricky question about money and taxation, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s” had the effect of stopping that line of questioning from the Pharisees. The Sadducees continue in Matthew 22:23 with the question, if a woman marries 7 brothers on earth who is she married to in heaven? Just after that a Pharisee lawyer asks Jesus, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” These guys were persistent. Jesus answered the question, stating with clarity the Christian dictum, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

I was asked to speak on Stewardship today, and give my reflection on the Proper 24 scripture. As many of you know I have a story about that. So far, my life has been a great adventure with many strange and surprising twists I could not have imagined. At an early age, for self-preservation, I learned to navigate. My mother has absolutely NO sense of direction. We laugh about my mom coming out of the grocery store when I was about 3 years old and stating, “Becky, take me to the car.” Really it was that bad, and to prevent walking all over looking for the car, I learned to get us in and out. So generally I have always been fairly good at reading maps, and have a fairly good internal compass, and I am pretty observant. I do prepare for going to new areas, but like us all I have occasionally gone the very long way around rather than the direct route.

I have one of those familiar faces where people seem to think they know me. I’ve been stopped all over the world by people who think they know me from somewhere, usually they think my name is Debbie. If you doubt this strange occurrence, just ask my sons or my mom and they can relate stories of this happening all over the USA and even in foreign countries on numerous occasions.  Either I have common facial features, or there are a whole host of Debbies out there that look like me. Or maybe I read too many mysteries.

The other strange thing that happens to me is that people often stop and ask me for directions. I will be in a group and strangers will make a bee line to me and ask for directions to something. My mom says it is because I look bossy. My sons and my late husband would just laugh that it is happening again. We cannot remember a trip anywhere that this has not happened at least once. Usually I am able to help them get to their destination.

I have several stories on this subject that are very amusing, but I remember Aubrey told me to keep it short.

So, what is my connection with strangers all over the world picking me out to speak to me, and the concept of Stewardship? It relates back to Jesus’ responses to the questions from the religious authorities of his time. I need to love God with all I have, and like that great commandment I need to love others. What are the things that God has provided me with to worship, love, care, respect, honor God, and what has he provided me with to love others? I hope that the strange link with people is related to my desire to see God in all things here on earth. When my sons were little I tried to direct them to see God’s beauty around us, like making a temporary amazing sunset. They gave me vision to see things from their perspective, as when we were walking in a field, and one of them said, “God likes variety, he could have made only one type of bird.” All we have is from God, he gives abundantly. “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

I feel strongly that together as the Body of Christ, his church here on earth, we can through action show the love to neighbors, which God commands. Through using our resources we provide to each other and to the wider community. We have a bigger impact when we work together. I volunteer in a variety of different arenas because I think it is important “God” work. I am with my actions trying to love God with what he has given me. The funds I provide are given for important “God” work. Again I am trying to honor God with what he has provided.

As I pray and look at my finances to make my pledge, I work to put God at the top and make it balance. Fear is the limitation. What if I don’t have enough for …. (insert anything here)….?

I read an interesting interview of Gabrielle Bernstein, a motivational speaker who is in her ninth year of recovery from drugs and alcohol. She had a very interesting concept that fear was distancing oneself from the greater power (God). “The presence of fear is a sure sign that you are relying on your own strength.” She relates that her relationship to a higher power means that “when we are relying on our own strength and when we have disconnected from a presence greater than us, then that is when fear sets in, that’s when addiction shows up, that is when we start to feel really disconnected from our lives.” She believes that sobriety and recovery are really spiritual issues.

Stewardship and giving means using my whole self and what I have been provided, for the good work of loving God and loving my neighbor. Fear has no part in this gift as my goal is to honor God.

I hope when I am helping the next stranger with directions, the love that God directs me to give to him and my neighbors is received.

May I sense that little piece of Jesus residing in me as I try to live out the commandments and give to God what is God’s.