Darth Vader, Imperial Taxes, and the King of Kings
When I hear the word “imperial,” I can’t help it… I think of Darth Vader and the evil Star Wars Empire. The story is set a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Darth Vader, once a human and a Jedi knight on the side of good, becomes a Sith lord fighting for the evil Empire, corrupted by the “dark side.” He works against the rebel forces for Emperor Palpatine who desires the ultimate power – to rule the entire galaxy. *I have the Imperial March chiming in my head as I type*
While the Emperor is menacing, it is Darth Vader who has become synonymous with evil in pop culture. Vader is the ultimate “bad guy” in my opinion, the one whom many other movie super villains have been modeled after (many of whom have tried and failed). His powers are nearly unbeatable. He is motivated by his desire for power and to rule. He takes his abandonment issues and emptiness and turns it into fuel for his ambition. He is never fiery in his anger, but rather exhibits cool rage. He never threatens – he just acts – and his methods of control invoke fear, shock, awe, and respect in his followers and victims.
Well, Caesar Augustus didn’t exactly have the option to rule an “entire” galaxy, but he was the first emperor of Roman Empire and pretty much controlled most of the known world. The Bible mentions him only twice: He orders a census of the known world in the beginning of Luke, and then the Pharisees try to trip Jesus up by asking him about paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus has an awesome response:
“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Matthew 22:21
They are amazed with His all-wise response.
So what do Darth Vader, Caesar Augustus, and paying taxes have to do with Jesus’ words?
Everything is God’s. Everything belongs to God. Colossians 1:16 says, “For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
Vader, Palpatine, and Caesar – nothing actually is really yours and yours alone! All these other created “lords” whether fictional or real pale in comparison to the King of kings, Lord of lords, and Creator of all the heavens and earth.
Now I wouldn’t go comparing myself to Caesar or Vader normally, but isn’t it true that we all like to control our “precious little worlds?” We like to set ourselves up as kings and queens of our own little kingdoms in our hearts, and what is in our hearts, reflects who we truly are. Yet we aren’t really in control. We can’t really save ourselves. We can’t really rule our own bodies, let alone an entire empire or galaxy. Nothing that is ours is really ours alone – everything is God’s.
Adam and I have been going through this devotional called A 40 Day Journey to a more Generous Life by Brian Kluth. The quote on Day 1 says, “If we belong to Christ, it’s logical that everything we have truly belongs to Him. When we give to God, we are just taking our hands off what already belongs to Him.” My initial response was awe at the wisdom of these words, but then as I thought about it more, “ouch” fit my emotions more readily. How many times do I think of “my stuff” as mine?
All these things are graciously “on loan” to me from God, part of the many blessings He has bestowed upon His daughter. Too often we get caught in the “my” possessions trap, and fail to see the gifts God has given us. We fail to thank Him daily, and we take everything we have for granted. What would you do if you woke up tomorrow and you were missing one or two of these things? Would life be over for you? What if you woke up tomorrow and you didn’t have your house, your car, your husband, your job, your health, your family, your friends, or your money? Life would look pretty grim, right? Would you still praise God? Would you still thank God? Would you still trust in God to provide?
Job did. Job was tested and tried to the extreme. His children died. His livestock died. His servants died. He got painful boils and sores. His friends tried to convince him that he must have sinned in some way and therefore was being punished by God. Even his own wife told him to give up, curse God, and die. But he didn’t. He still praised God. Sure, he wrestled with God. He tried to understand what God was doing. But he never gave up believing that God would still provide.
Recently, I have been so aware of how generously God has provided for and blessed Adam and I. I’ve started to see “my stuff” as God’s stuff. I’ve started to see our money as His money to use for His glorious purposes. This is a hard lesson to learn. It’s hard to let go of our money since our society is so caught up in money and dependent on financial well-being.
Adam and I went through a period where we weren’t sure we could pay all our bills and tithe. We chose to tithe very little and managed to pay all our bills. But then, we discussed it and decided to go back to tithing 10%. I can’t tell you how much more I’ve felt the Holy Spirit moving and how much more aware I am of God’s work and blessings in my life. Now I’m not here today to talk to you about the benefits of tithing or tell you to tithe if you aren’t or to tithe more than you already are. With Good Friday just two days away, examine your heart and ask the Lord to reveal what may be preventing you from giving over everything to God.
Darth Vader and Palpatine wanted to rule the galaxy – they wanted power. They wanted control. What are you afraid to let go of because you want to stay in control? What is one thing you need to give over to God?
The Pharisees tried to trip Jesus up by asking Him about whether it was good to pay taxes to Caesar or give to God. Jesus wisely replied that while we should pay our government taxes, all of our money and possessions are totally God’s in the first place.
A little while later, He speaks to the disciples about two greatest commandments:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
As my husband wisely prayed last night, “May we seek not Your blessings or Your treasures, but You, our King, drawing deeper into intimacy with You.” Tweet this!
Yes, God wants us to trust Him with our finances, relationships, and possessions. Yes, God wants us to give back to Him from a willing, joyful heart. But God deeply desires our hearts, our worship, and our love. God wants to be in relationship with us and He wants everything we do to be an out flowing of our love for Him.
What is one thing you could do without this week? How can you give generously to your husband, your family, your friends, your church, your co- workers or class mates, your neighbors, and even strangers? How can you love more openly, readily, willingly, deeply, and passionately?
This post is apart of the Easter Challenge Series. Check out Celebrating Palm Sunday, Does God Hate Fig Trees?, and Words from the Vineyard and At-Home Wine Tasting Date Night.
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