Saturday, December 3, 2011
Trying to Box with God
Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.
We are already overwhelmed with conversation about the presidential election although it is almost a year away. A big topic of discussion is taxes and how high taxes have caused the financial problems in the US. Although it is not true, many like to see taxes as the source of destruction and evil, rather than what they are in a democracy, our participation in the cost of the common good for all people. We are not living in a occupied territory or a dictatorship but rather we all share in the welfare of our communities. Unfortunately, our wealthiest citizens pay the least amount of taxes so that the poor suffer even more severely in this country.
Jesus was living in an occupied territory and the people of Palestine and Judea were being gouged by the Roman occupiers. And Jesus also knew that the questions were coming from a place of politics and scheming rather than an honest concern. They were trying to nail him at illegal practices. And he reminded them that they were boxing with God, trying to fight a battle of wits, trying to ensnare him rather than learn r be transformed. We all try this sometimes, when we are hurt and frustrated -boxing with God. We want to lash out, but tenuously, hoping to still be loved after we have our little fit. Jesus understood and reminded them to give what is God to God. We all struggle to trust and love when we feel taxed, stressed and afraid. Jesus reminds us today that despite our attempts to lash out and tangle, we are loved and cared for, because of and despite our human frailty.
Today, I ask God to help me be more trusting and less testing. This season of Advent can put an extra burden of anxiety on many, especially those who have little and want to lavish their loved ones with much. May we trust that love is more than enough, that God will supply our every need, and that our little offerings are blessed and increased by God's endless and abundant love.