“Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said.” (Matthew 22:15)
It is not surprising that the at some point the religious leaders and those in power would tire of Jesus pointing out the weak and un-God-like aspects of their faith life. The Gospel writers sort of set up an adversarial relationship between the two. One might speculate as to what the actual relationship was like. In a way it reminds me of the tension I sense between the Old and New Testament as to how the Divine (Yahweh) is presented and portrayed. It might just be my next “self-guided journey.
“So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” (Verses 16 – 17)
On the other hand, however, it is not quite fair to pose a question that pits faith against politics. It is bad enough when faith and politics are forced to co-habitat. It is worse to force them to fight it out.
“But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?”
They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.” (Verses 18 – 22)
Jesus was quite aware of what they were doing. If he answered one way, he would rile up the civil leadership. If he answered the other, giving support to civil leadership that had suppressed and oppressed the Jews, he would be in conflict with many that opposed civil leadership. His answer neatly avoided both. The interesting thing is that much of the Jewish leadership had already “consorted” with civil leadership (yeah, that co-inhabiting thing) and had divided up their areas of influence and purview – neither of which had the common people’s best benefit in mind. Jesus’ answer gave the common people a way of following the law while keeping their faith intact.
In this approaching political season in the United States, it would be good to mark out our boundaries as to where and what one is giving to “the Emperor” and what one is giving to the Divine. Especially keep in mind what power and authority is being given, and to which “Emperor” it is being given to. Being a Canadian, I do not have a say and am allowed only give monetary support to the government in general – but I do so. However, being a Canadian I do not have to endorse any US “Emperor” and that gives me great peace and repose. In addition, being a person of gentle temperament, I would not impose my opinion on another to vote or support any particular person. Finally, I hope you know me well enough to know what my opinion is! Shalom & Selah!