Today, I want to talk about commitment and the importance of choosing God moment by moment. We live in a non-committal culture. I believe we have become a non-committal people esp. in this country because we live in an age of seemingly endless options and choices. I worship the god of K.O.O. Keep Options Open. Do you want to do this? I’m KOO. Do you want to come to that? I’m KOO. We want to keep our options open. Nobody likes to commit nowadays.
For example, you ask your friends, are you free this weekend? Yes. So what should we do? I don’t know. Okay, think about it. Let’s email and text each other for the next couple of days but let’s plan on doing something. Alright, sounds like a plan But the weekend comes and goes and nothing happens. Why? Because you and your friend are worshiping KOO. You want to keep your options open. Am I right?
What if you commit to going to the beach, but the weather is not good? What if you commit to going to the beach and the weather is good, but you wake up late and you feel kind of lazy and you no longer feel like going to the beach. The beach sounded great last night. This morning, not so great. Or, what if you commit to going to the beach with friend A and friend B says, I got free tickets to Disneyland? What do you do? Do you ditch friend A and go with friend B? The problem is, friend A and friend B are also friends so friend A will probably find out from friend B or from a facebook update that you ditched him.
We don’t want to commit because what if we commit to do something and we don’t feel like doing it later on. Or what if some better option comes along? We have been trained to be non-committal because we are bombarded with so many options.
Have you ever seen the menu at the Cheesecake Factory? That thing is like a dictionary. Page after page of appetizers and entrees and desserts. Now they have mini plates, which are bigger than appetizers but not quite a full meal. They also have low calorie options for the health conscious. If you can’t decide between soup or a salad, or soup and a sandwich, don’t worry, you can do a combo meal–soup and salad or sandwich and soup, or why not all three, go for the soup and sandwich combo and then order a side salad. It’s hard to decide what to eat and even while you are about to decide, aren’t you worried about picking a lousy dish? So even though there are 100 choices, don’t you end up choosing the same 2-3 things out of fear?
I like In N Out because there are only 2 choices–hamburger or hamburger with cheese. And the only variation is you can have a single patty or a double double, up to 4 patties. Plus, the option of grilled onions or raw.
We are bombarded with so many choices. You buy something from the store because when those shoes or that laptop caught your eye, you had to have it. You couldn’t resist. Then, the next morning, you wake up and you don’t like it anymore. The shoes are not that comfortable or the laptop is not as fast as you thought. You committed to the item yesterday. You had to have it. Today, you don’t want it. No problem. Within 90 days of the date of purchase, you can return it. No questions asked.
Has this ever happened to you? That on the 91st day after the date of purchase, you see a sale and those same shoes you just bought a few months ago are being sold for half of what you paid. Or the next generation model of the laptop comes out and it has more processing power and more RAM and it has a super retina 3D display and it costs less than what you paid. Even when we make a choice, there is a tinge of regret because we know that something better is just around the corner.
Take relationships. People are afraid to commit to relationships. It’s becoming increasingly common in our day for people to cohabitate before tying the knot. It’s the “try before you buy” approach. I better see if I can live with this person BEFORE I entertain the thought of spending the next few decades with him or her. And the thought of committing to another person for life scares so many people. What if I marry the wrong person? What if I marry this person and I am not happy? What if I get married and I meet someone better? Can I get a refund?
For me growing up, life was easy. I only had 2 choices. Study or sleep. I had a binary life. Two choices. And sleep was the only state when I was permitted to take a break from studies. I could choose not to study while I was awake, but then my dad would give me another set of options–do I want to live or do I want to die? Life was simple back then.
In Matthew 22, we read about a bunch of people who are invited to a wedding banquet but they either made excuses why they couldn’t go, or they flat out refused to go. This invitation is part of an ongoing and increasingly heated verbal exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders.
Just in this chapter alone, there are 4 encounters. The first encounter was the parable of the wedding banquet. Who was the audience? If you read the tail end of chapter 21, you see that Jesus was speaking to the chief priests and the Pharisees. The second encounter is the section about paying taxes to Caesar. Who’s the audience? v15 – Jesus is talking only to the Pharisees and their question is political in nature. The third encounter involves a discussion about marriage at the resurrection. Who’s the audience? v23 – Now it’s the Sadducees turn to take a jab at Jesus. They ask a theological question. The fourth encounter can be found starting in v34–here, Jesus is addressing a lone Pharisee. He asks an ethical question.
Do you see what is going on here? It’s like a street fight. This is MMA – Mouth Martial Arts. They are ganging up on Jesus using their mouth. These various groupings of religious leaders are taking turns at Jesus with verbal uppercuts. The chief priests and Pharisees first, then its just the Pharisees taking a swing, then the Sadducees and finally a lone Pharisee.
Notice Jesus. For now, he is calm, cool and collected. He is answering their verbal attacks with incredible wisdom and authority. In v15, we read–
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to trap Him by what He said. 16 They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that You are truthful and teach truthfully the way of God. You defer to no one, for You don’t show partiality. 17 Tell us, therefore, what You think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 18 But perceiving their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? 19 Show Me the coin used for the tax.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20 “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked them. 21 “Caesar’s,” they said to Him. Then He said to them, “Therefore give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left Him and went away.
Remember, these Pharisees are asking, not because they are curious, they are asking, v15, in order to trap Jesus in his words. They were not really looking for an answer. They wanted to catch Jesus saying something inappropriate or offensive so they could bring a charge against him. Jesus answers this political question by pointing to a coin. See the coin? Whose portrait is this? Whose inscription? Caesar’s. Then, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.
What’s he trying to say? Pay your taxes. Caesar might not be a perfect leader and the Roman Empire might not be a perfect government. But they provide laws and infrastructure. They make sure there are soldiers in place to protect you and roadways so that you can travel and running water. Every time the Romans come to collect taxes from your paycheck, don’t complain, pay them. But Jesus is not saying, become super political as some Christians make their faith to be all about politics.
The point Jesus is making here is this. In the same way that the coin has the image of Caesar and so we are to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s in the form of taxes, in the same way, we are made in the image of God. God’s image is imprinted on us and so give to God what is God’s. If God created us and we are made in his image and his image is inscribed on our very selves, then give to God what is God’s. Not just every two weeks when your paychecks comes in the mail or once a year during tax day, but every day, every moment, give to God what is God’s. Give him your life.
The next encounter is with the Sadducees. They take their shot at Jesus. They ask about a hypothetical scenario where one woman marries a man, who is one of 7 brothers. The husband dies so she marries his brother, then he dies so she marries the third brother, then a fourth, all the way down the line to the seventh brother. And the question is, who is she married to at the resurrection in heaven? To understand why they asked this question, we need to read v23–
23 The same day some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came up to Him and questioned Him…
The Sadducees were a sect of Jews that were part of the upper social and economic echelon of Judean society. As a whole, these Sadducees fulfilled various political, social, and religious roles, including the maintenance of the temple. Because of their ties to state power, as we see even in our own church history, there was corruption among the Sadducees because they were in positions of privilege and power.
This verse tells you where the Sadducees stand theologically. They believed there is no resurrection. They are like materialists–this material, physical body and what I can see and taste and touch is all there is. They are kind of like modern day nihilists. When you breathe your last breath, that it’s. There is no afterlife. The simplest explanation for this is that while the Pharisees accepted the entire Old Testament as inspired by God, the Sadducees accepted only the Torah, the first five books of the OT. And because God is a God of gradual revelation, the Sadducees didn’t believe in the afterlife because there was no explicit mention of eternal life in the first five books.
It was thought very early on in Hebrew culture that the spirit literally was our physical breath because the word for “spirit” and the word for “breath” are the same word in Hebrew. And once a person breathed his last, his spirit was gone and he ceased to exist as a person.
Jesus answers that there is an afterlife. There is a resurrection. We have souls which are distinct from our physical bodies. He said, I am not the God of the dead but of the living. Death is not the end. Our soul continues even when our hearts stop and our brain ceases to function. And at the resurrection, there is no need for marriage because Jesus is in fact our bridegroom. We are His bride.