He said to them, "Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
Dwight Lee Wolter
Tomorrow is tax day and the IRS wants our money. Many of us would "give back to Caesar what is Caesar's" if we only had it to give. Maybe we can spin straw into gold as in the tale of Rumplestiltskin. Remember? The king shuts a young woman in a tower with a pile of straw and demands she transform it into gold, which she does with the help of a creepy creature named Rumpelstilskin. A similar thing happens with alchemy. Practitioners of the ancient art of alchemy believed it was possible to transform base metals like lead into gold. Maybe we could try that too. Call the IRS and tell them they will get paid as soon as you spin straw and transform lead into gold. Sound crazy?
Many early alchemy practitioners believed in the chemical transformation of lead into gold because they saw similar things happen in the human spirit. Martin Luther applauded alchemy for its consistency with Christian teachings. And in 1935, the psychiatrist, Carl Jung, first presented his work on psychological alchemy.
Spiritual alchemy is when base elements - the "lead" within us - are transformed into "gold." Spiritual alchemy happens when dead parts in us come back to life; when spiritual blindness is transformed into sight; addiction is transformed into recovery; abuse into respect; disease into wellness; ignorance into enlightenment; fear into faith; and despair into hope.
Spiritual alchemy is not rooted in magic creatures, fairy tales, chemistry, finance or doctrine. Spiritual alchemy is a transformation that is rooted in God. As you place your soul on the loom of Christ to be spun into gold by God, you may not become rich enough to pay your taxes, but you may be transformed into something more precious. Give to God what belongs to God, and let Caesar keep the change.
God, spin the straw within me into gold, so that I may place it on the altar.
Dwight Lee Wolter is the author of Forgiving Our Parents, Freedom Through Forgiving (a workbook), and Forgiving Our Grownup Children. He is pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue on Long Island, New York.