“Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:21)
This is Jesus’ masterful deflection when the Pharisees attempted to box him into a corner and force him to anger the Jews… or alternatively, the Roman occupiers and their sympathizers. Talk about getting caught between a rock and a hard place, yet Jesus sidestepped brilliantly.
This was more than mere linguistic prowess, however… Jesus was also drawing a sharp and important distinction between the things of this world and the things of the next. Between the fleeting and the enduring.
As a child of the ’60s and ’70s, I remember well when a toy called the Ding-A-Lings was being heavily advertised. You could not watch television without learning about these small robots that were capable of driving toy vehicles, interacting with each other, and probably best of all… moving along a configurable track in a variety of dimensions. The Ding-A-Lings could follow the track up, down, sideways and even upside down. As this was over 40 years ago, there was nothing else like it. My brother wanted this for Christmas and he wanted it bad. Secretly, I did too.
For a little Ding-A-Ling madness, see this:
In the months leading up to Christmas one year, the Ding-A-Lings were all we could talk about. We fantasized about building tracks all around our house, having robots circling us constantly, directing the toys to serve us. I have a faint memory of thinking that we could even teach them to make us breakfast in our kitchen. Such was the imagination of young boys.
On Christmas morning, my brother unwrapped the gigantic box with much glee. Santa had brought the deluxe kit, the super high end version complete with extra track and not one, but two robots – one for each of us! We ignored all of the other gifts that day and set about to construct our robotic masterpiece. For hours, we read instructions, assembled, experimented, and relished the pure joy of a dream fulfilled.
But something else happened. No matter what we did, the Ding-A-Lings would not stay on the track. And before my parents had had their second cups of coffee, we were already replacing the batteries. The Ding-A-Lings were battery hogs. My mother didn’t love that one of our tracks forced her to hop over them to move across the living room and our older brother stepped on one section rendering it useless. The television ads suggested that the robots were nearly autonomous, that you turned them on and set them free to… do robotic things. But in reality, you had to maneuver them. We felt as though we were playing with small dolls. And loud – man those things were loud. They let off a grinding buzz that annoyed all of us. They never showed that in the commercial.
Into the box all the Ding-A-Lings went. They sat in that box, first positioned in the side of our den, then downstairs in the basement, then eventually in a storage section of our attic, then… to the trash. Despite our high hopes and great anticipation, never again did we play with the Ding-A-Lings.
What are the Ding-A-Lings in your life?
Jesus distinguishes between the things of this world and the things of the everlasting world. Between that which lasts and that which does not. The fleeting versus the enduring.
Remember that Jesus came to heal but he did not simply return function to legs or eyes or cure illness. In all of his recorded healing miracles, he instructed the person to sin no more… to follow him. Eyes and legs and our bodies last only for a while. Our souls are meant to last forever.
If you were to think about and then make two lists showing how you spend your time, how you direct your spending, how you make decisions… what would go into the Fleeting column and what would go into the Enduring column? Things like power, money, prestige, comfort, possessions, position… those all go in the Fleeting column. Those are the Ding-A-Lings. We might have a great deal of anticipation about them, but they all eventually end up in a box headed out to the trash.
Service to others, compassion, forgiveness, generosity, humility, developing a relationship with Christ through prayer, making God the Father the center of our lives, the cornerstone of what we do and who we are… well, those things Endure.
Make those lists. See what that tells you.
… don’t be a Ding-A-Ling!