Friday, August 18, 2017

Taxes? Jesus Avoids Jupiter's Politicization, Polarization, and Purging (Matthew 22:15-22)

We should not allow all those church buildings, medieval and modern, to fool us. We Christians and churches adore the same six conventional gods of Olympianity that our neighbors do. Today Jesus calls us back to our senses.
As a society, one of the gods we absurdly adore is Jupiter, god of politics. While Jesus has already set us right with God and one another, Jupiter seeks to shatter these right relationships. He does this by persuading us, all too easily, to politicize an issue. The corporate media happily help him to do this. Then he polarizes us around this issue. He has us choose sides. People on our side are good. People on the other are evil. Finally, and for him most gratifyingly, he has us purge those considered evil.
Jesus shows us a different way.
One politicized issue in the days of Jesus was the payment of taxes. Progressives believed that no taxes should be paid to the Roman government. It was evil and any Jew who supported it by paying taxes was even worse. Conservatives believed that taxes should be paid and that non-payment was a sin. Because the issue was politicized, Jupiter charged any discussion of taxation with delirium: emotional intensity and stubborn irrationality.
Free for God and from Jupiter, Jesus took a different course. To begin with, the issue wasn’t even part of his witness to the presence of the Kingdom of God.
Some men, however, weren’t satisfied with that (Matthew 22:15-22). They asked Jesus whether or not it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. The issue was already politicized. No reasonable discussion, for or against, was possible any longer. What these men wanted to do was to polarize opinion about Jesus in terms set by Jupiter. They wanted Jesus to identity himself as either a progressive or a conservative. It didn’t matter which; either way, they’d know what to do with him next: purge him.
Fortunately for us, Jesus knew another, better, way. He asked those hostile to him to show him a coin used to pay the polarizing tax. The image on it proved that it belonged to Caesar. That being the case, how could anyone rightly refuse when Caesar asked for its return?
But then, surprisingly, Jesus continued. Not everything belongs to Caesar. The coins with Caesar's image on them belong to Caesar. But God created us in his image. So our lives belong to him.
So, hotshots, what do you think of that? They were amazed and left.
As Christians and churches, we walk the difficult path of freedom with Jesus when we resist the temptation to politicize ourselves and resist the pressure of others to politicize us. Jupiter is not the god we serve. TV news does not set Christ’s agenda. Instead, Jesus calls us today to read our Bibles so that he may speak to us today a new and refreshing word of truth. It is this new and always surprising word, which we may discern and affirm by the power of his Holy Spirit, that will allow us, today, to respond to hostile questions as creatively as he did. May we do so for our good and his glory.

Copyright © 2017 by Steven Farsaci.
All rights reserved. Fair use encouraged.