What exactly do we owe God?

This question was raised this past Sunday when the homily centered around the day’s Gospel reading (Matthew 22:15-22). Jesus is asked if it is lawful to pay taxes. He responds by taking a coin with the emperor’s head on it and then says the well-known line that we are to “Give ... to God the things that are God’s.”

Now I don’t know about anyone else, but when I’m told to give God the things that are God’s, you’ll find some heavy and deep praying going on to get an answer. And not just about what belongs to God, but what belongs to me, my family and the community for starters.

Christians do believe that all that is and all that will be comes from one source, God the Creator. We share this one world, this one home, with everything else that was made, to the extent that God named us creation’s caretakers. Do we own up to being caretakers by acting on it? By acting on it, do we follow through with them while also giving thanks for what we’ve been given?

Tithing fills one monetary aspect of giving back. In our church after the offertory is taken, we take the gifts and raise them up to the altar as we recite: “All things come of Thee, O lord; and of thine own have we given Thee.” (1 Chronicles 29.12-15) That is one measure of showing our thanks by giving back a portion of our income to God.

Are there other gifts we’ve been given that can be given back? While a Stewardship Drive helps us see what next year’s budget will look like, there is no true way to find out how other gifts will be returned to God.

We don’t make them public, but there are also the gifts of time and talent presented along with the tithe.

Name one group, even outside of a church, who can operate merely on money they’ve collected. What of the countless volunteers that show up day after day, selflessly giving their spare time when the announcement of “who can help” is made? The list is endless.

What of the faces who show up every time there is a need requiring some special talent of theirs? This list might be as endless as the givers of time.

In both time and talents, we’re talking about the church musicians and choir, the lectors, Altar Guild, acolytes, chalice ministers, cooks, kitchen help, building repair, Sunday School teachers, ushers, vestry and board members, administrative helpers ... I hope nobody is missed. You are all special, you who go about giving back to God what has been given to you. You do it by giving to creation what it truly needs; the sense that it is loved.

The people of God amidst the creatures of a “God (who) loves us, not because we are good, but because God is good,” according to author Friar Richard Rohr. All the more reason to give more.

The Rev. Peter Mark Gdula is a deacon in the Episcopal Diocese of Central Pennsylvania.

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