“But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius, and let me look at it.'” v. 15
If you’re going to criticize God’s people you’d better check your pockets first. Before you presume to speak with any kind of authority against God and his work you’d better clear out the idols in your own life, or your efforts to fix everyone else will not end well. If you are one of those people who feel called to call out the church and point out its flaws, listen up. Our story today tells about how your ideological ancestors went after Jesus only to find themselves looking like idiots, because they forgot to check their pockets first. Here’s a summary.
One day Jesus was set up by a mixture of Pharisees and Herodians. By the way, these two groups generally despised each other, but somehow managed to find unity in their disdain for Jesus. They begin by trying to flatter Jesus, with all sorts of buttery smooth, disingenuous prattle, “We know you are true and blah blah blah.” (watch out when critics suddenly start talking nice.) Then they throw the trap, “Jesus is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” I can see Jesus rolling his eyes the whole time and saying to himself, “Really? How stupid do you think I am?” You see, he can either be arrested for treason or rejected as an enemy of Israel, depending on how he answers the question. Of course Jesus doesn’t fall for such games. You know the kind of pseudo intellectual games played by people who want to trip you up, so they don’t have to actually think about faith? You know the type. Anyway, Jesus says, “Bring me a denarius, and let me look at it.” So they did. The argument was over at this point, even though Jesus went on to say, “Give unto Caesar, what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Why was it over? Because of the fact that these religious and political experts were carrying idols in their pockets. You see, a Denarius with Caesars inscription, was considered an idol. The Pharisees were not allowed to touch such things without having to go through a whole process of cleansing. So here come the critics, hoping to catch Jesus in his words, when all the while they are standing there with pockets full of idols. Jesus wins the day by simply exposing the idols in their pockets. Boom! Slam dunk! Jesus -10 Critics -Zero. Don’t let this happen to you. If you are one of those people who is given to the need to criticize God, his work, or his people, take note here. If you are a self appointed fruit inspector, or part time prophet, who is always pointing out what is wrong with everyone else, make sure your pockets are clean. Make sure that you have searched your own heart for secret sin like pride, self-righteousness, jealousy, envy, and greed. Make sure that your criticism of the rest of us isn’t just a smoke screen to hide your own sin. God may call you to be a prophet, and send you to correct the church when she needs it. But if he does, keep in mind that the prophets preached out of broken hearted love, not sadistic glee. And they spent long nights in prayer, and weeping for the people they confronted. They also were willing to die to see them saved. And finally, as we’ve already said, they searched their own pockets first. Does that describe you? Are you broken hearted over sin? Are you filled with love? Are you praying into the night for us? Are you willing to lay down your life on our behalf? If so, you are ready to speak out. Until then, a little humility may be in order. Check your pockets. Today let us do all we can to build each other up, and present each other complete in Christ. Let’s put away the critical games and really try to help each other be all we can be for Christ. And should the time come when you need to confront, make sure you check your heart and your pockets. Then you will be used of God to restore and rebuild. After all, that is your goal, isn’t it?