Faith, Life

Paying Tribute

My husband and I recently escaped the day-to-day to enjoy a weekend get-away in honor of our 30th Anniversary.

Though you can’t travel a great distance for a single weekend, living west of the Mississippi means there is always a worthy destination within a few hours’ drive. We headed due south to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Our trip began with an overnight in a historic B & B in Deadwood; an old-west gambling town famous for its larger-than-life characters. The legendary duo, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried in the hill-side cemetery that overlooks the town.

After spending a day exploring the shops there, we headed further into the mountains to visit Mount Rushmore National Monument—something we had wanted to do for some time.

The monument was every bit as spectacular as I imagined. The genius behind the concept and design was awe inspiring. The engineering required to accomplish the work was mind boggling. The eyes were utterly memorizing —massive chunks of granite set into hollows chiseled within masterfully sculpted faces.  The details were so faithfully rendered that gazing at them I found the lines between lifeless rock and living flesh marvelously blurred.

My mind was captivated by thoughts of the devotion and investment poured into this monument to four American presidents whose leadership contributed to the greatness of this nation.  This colossal sculpture is a tribute— an enduring proclamation of honor.

TRIBUTE: noun | trib·​ute  |  tri byüt

  1. :something (such as material evidence or a formal attestation) that indicates the worth, virtue, or effectiveness of the one in question
  2. :a payment by one ruler or nation to another in acknowledgment of submission or as the price of protection

My mind drifted to a conversation between Jesus and ‘spies’ sent by the religious rulers in Jerusalem that began with a question regarding the Jewish people’s tax obligation to Rome.

The Roman government collected tribute from all people considered subjects of Rome. The word tribute carries limited weight in our modern usage, but held substantial meaning in its original Latin context. Paying tribute was giving a portion of one’s wealth as a sign of respect or, more precisely, allegiance to authority. Recognizing the significant implications involved, the Pharisees intended to trap Jesus by asking Him if God’s people should pay tribute to Caesar.

Jesus reply was simple but powerful:

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Luke 20:25

As we prepared to leave, I stood for a moment and surveyed the territorial view of the Black Hills. The scale of Mount Rushmore shrank against the magnitude of the entire range.  In my minds-eye, my view expanded westward to the Rockies, then still further toward the Sierra Nevada range. Traveling northerly the snow-capped Cascade Mountains rose against the Pacific coast, giving way to the majestic Olympics beyond. Casting my gaze eastward brought back memories of the lush green of the Appalachian Mountains.

My soul was overwhelmed as the faces chiseled into Mount Rushmore — the lifetime achievement of hundreds of men — faded into obscurity against the grandeur of creation.

According to the Psalmist, every rock, every stream, every creature that crawls upon the earth or soars above it bears the image of the  Creator. The thought of it took my breath away.

The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Whose face is on this coin?” to make the point that allegiance is based on dominion. According to His perfect plan, the Lord had given the Roman Empire temporary and limited authority over His people. The coins in their pockets were minted by Rome, and therefore Caesar had the right to require tribute.

Embedded in His reply was a proclamation that ultimately everything belongs to God. His imprint is on every river bed, field of grain, and grassy glen. Every gorge and canyon echoes His mighty name. Every drop of rain and every sunset proclaim His glory.

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:3

Likewise, we must remember that only One deserves our heart allegiance. Our life belongs to Him because He paid the price for our soul.

What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

By His grace, we are becoming a work of art in the hands of the Master. We are a new creation being transformed according to His purpose and for His glory. Our lives are meant to be a living monument—a tribute to the One who redeemed us and is sculpting us into the image of His Son.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

©2019 Tabitha Meglich                                                 Photo Credit: Pixabay

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