Matthew 22:21 Then he said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
We learn the 4th commandment, "Honor your Father and Mother" - What does this mean? We should fear and love God that we may not despise our parents and masters, nor provoke them to anger, but give them honor, serve and obey them, and hold them in love and esteem.
This is what we owe, not just to good parents, and good masters, but to all that God places over us. We often tell children to obey their parents, but there is a lot more, we live in an age that has made a virtue out of sarcasm, and we might believe that one can obey 'with attitude' - problem is, that not only does this not honor them, nor does it hold them in love and esteem, but often it provokes them to anger. And if that is what we tell children, what should we be telling ourselves, because this is not a commandment that is ONLY for children, as though we can outgrow its requirements - it applies to people of all ages. Do we continue to honor our parents? Do we honor those God has placed over us, in work and in government? It is not something that is left to our discretion, it does not say to only honor those who are worthy. How many times have we heard comics poking fun at the government and its officials, do we listen, do we laugh - are we rendering to Caesar the things that are Caesar's? What about taxes, do we pay them cheerfully? If we have difficulty with this, consider that there is more.
What do we owe God? All creation is called upon to worship God, simply because God created it, in the end, even the devil and the evil angels will worship God, not just weekly but continually. You see, even if we might want to believe that we do a good thing giving God an hour or two on Sunday, its not enough, he deserves more - in fact he is owed more. Is there merit in paying your debts? Then consider how much you owe God, and consider - what's the most important thing in your life, what is the center, and core of your life - if its not God, not only are you not giving God the worship and honor he deserves - but you have an other god.
You see, there is one thing our lesson shows us most clearly - and that is, that we are all sinners, we have all fallen short. Consider that God so loved the world that he sent his only Son to suffer and die to save sinners, people who had never done anything worthy - and yet God has had mercy on us, and Jesus has died for us that our sins are forgiven. Consider that God did not just ignore our debt, be he paid our debt, remember that we were not redeemed with silver and gold, but with the holy precious blood of Jesus and his innocent suffering and death. This is why the scripture reminds us that we are not our own (as though we can do what we please), for we have been bought with a price, and we are encouraged therefore to glorify God with all that is in us, with all that we have, and with our very bodies. That is how much we owe God.
But we are not saved by our works, we are saved by grace through faith in Christ. The law does not bring us salvation. The law shows us our sins, and shows us our need for a savior. It is the gospel that shows us our savior. It is the gospel that tells us that the blood of Jesus washes away all our sins. It is the gospel that saves. It is the gospel that we have been commissioned to bring to all nations, beginning with where we are.
It is surprising to hear that God could love us just as we are, poor, wretched, miserable sinners, it is unbelievable, incomprehensible. But while God does love us just as we are, he does not leave us just as we are. But by grace though faith, beginning with our Baptism, he has made us a new creation. And in Jesus body and blood, given and shed for us, not only are all our sins forgiven, but we are renewed in the new creation. This is the good news, this is what saves - not what we have done, but all that God has done for us in Christ. And this is even more reason why it is good to worship and praise our loving and redeeming Savior.