Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.

Mark 12:17

Every couple whose wedding I celebrate is required to complete a questionnaire as part of a pre-marital counseling program I offer at our church. One of the questions on the survey says, “What responsibilities does a married couple have to the greater society?” It’s an interesting question and many couples admit they’ve never given that idea much thought. Most thoughts that couples have pertain to responsibilities in their own homes. But do they see their home, their family and their life as part of a greater whole? Do you see your life as part of a greater whole, rather than just an individual journey? In terms of serving, it is important to remember that we function as part of a greater society, not just as entities unto ourselves, and we all tend to forget this at times. Let’s discuss.

My home is not really MY home. I own it (well, the bank owns it until I pay it off, and even when I pay it off, I still have to pay property taxes on it, so the idea of home “ownership” is actually debatable) for the time being. I’ve lived in my current home for over 17 years. And before that home, we owned a home for two years, and before that, we owned a home for 4 years. We put a lot of work into those two previous homes, we left both the building and the property better than we found it. We’ve done the same with our current home. At some point, I will not own the home I live in. I may move at some point, and for sure I will pass away at some point. My home will belong to someone else. Can you imagine what would happen if I never took the trash out in my home? If I just let it accumulate inside the house. The outside world might not even know. But inside the house would resemble more of a garbage dump than a home. (One of the houses on my block had people renting the house. The landlord didn’t renew their lease. They trashed the house. The landlord invited me to look at the home when it was vacated—busted countertops, busted floors, trash everywhere—it looked like a garbage dump.) Except that one day, when I would no longer live in the house, it wouldn’t be suitable for anyone else to live in it either.

There are a lot of things besides home ownership that we do, or don’t do, that affect society. Here is a list of some responsibilities we have to the greater society (and the consequences if we don’t fulfill them):

~Drive safely. (Everyone’s life is at risk when we don’t, including ours.)

~Have insurance on our cars. (Accidents happen, and insurance makes sure that others are covered if we have an accident.)

~Obey traffic laws, like stopping for red lights. (Law promotes order. Not following the law, whether it is a traffic law or another law, promotes chaos.)

~Take out the trash at home. (Not removing trash creates unsanitary and unhealthy conditions which ultimately affect everyone.)

~Keep the grass cut at our home. (This is not just a matter of making the neighborhood look nice. Long grass in Florida where I live, and other places, encourages the presence of snakes, mosquitos and other things)

~Raise law-abiding children. (Again, law promotes order and crime promotes chaos. If our children are not raised to follow the law, we will raise a generation of criminals. We should also be raising our kids with values and with a work-ethic, because both of these things will determine what shapes our world in the future as they become leaders in it.)

~Pay bills on time. (People who provide services need and expect to be paid on time. If our employer doesn’t pay us on time, we can’t pay our bills. If we don’t pay those who work for us on time, they can’t pay theirs either, and then the cycle gets broken and chaos ensues.)

~Put away for retirement. (Yes, this means saving and not spending every penny we have. We save for retirement in our house, and that’s hard. And yet there will be those who will cry foul when we have saved and they haven’t, and say somehow the “system” is unfair. We are responsible for ourselves and our well-being, and that includes what happens when we don’t want to work anymore.)

~Work. (And on the subject of working, we all need to be doing something to provide for our own needs. If a person doesn’t want to work and expects to receive money from someone who is working, well, not only is that not fair, it’s not scriptural either. In 2 Timothy 2: 5-6, St. Paul writes “An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” In these verses, St. Paul re-iterates that there is a reward for following the rules of fair competition and fair share of labor.)

~Have health insurance. (We need to provide for our own health, that can’t fall on the shoulders of others. If we want health benefits, we have to be willing to pay the costs.)

~Do not litter. (Littering is a sign of laziness and disregard for others. It’s like saying “I don’t care about anyone else, so I’ll just drop my candy-wrapper on the ground, as if the world revolves around me.”)

~Do not steal. (Stealing is becoming very pervasive in the world, whether it’s shoplifting, or not working a full day for your employer because you are on social media or doing personal things on company time.)

~Do not physically harm other people. (Imagine if people walked out the door each morning saying this mantra “I don’t want to hurt anyone.” There is a lot of hurt in the world—whether it is physical or emotional or some other kind of hurt—we are, as the medical world says “to do no harm.”)

When I look at this brief list of responsibilities to society (and the list could be much longer), these all seem like common sense and yet we see people wantonly not meeting these responsibilities which is why the world is the way it is, in large part. When we see ourselves as part of the greater society, and when we do the minimum things listed here, if we all did that, the world would be a much better and safer place. This list doesn’t even touch things like recycling, conserving and not wasting. People are protesting and clamoring for these things on a daily basis. And yet, there are even more basic things like safety that we are lacking. Everyone has a role to play in keeping the world safe. An old sports saying is “If everyone plays average, no one has to be outstanding. If everyone makes the routine plays, no one has to make spectacular ones.” Everyone needs to do their part on what is routine, as it pertains to the greater society.

Lord, thank You for the gift of the world in which I live—for my family, my home, my car, my job, my city, the roads I drive on, everything that I have and everything that I do that is good has its source from You. Help me to remember to do my part to help serve in our society, whether it is to drive more carefully or pay a bill on time. All of it adds up in service to the world and to You. Help me to be a better servant not only to those I know, but especially to those I do not know, the people of my greater community. Amen.

Serve society today by being clean, safe, respectful and law-abiding. Nothing fancy, just fulfill the basics.