Summary: In the Spring of the Year a man's thoughts turn to. . . taxes. What did Jesus say about paying taxes?
Do Not Misuse Your Money
Everybody ready for tomorrow? April 30th, last day to get your taxes filed for 2011. Or maybe you’ve already filed. Maybe it depends on whether it you are getting money back or paying money out.
And taxes are a touchy subject for some folks, Politicians are elected or rejected often based on what they promise to do with our taxes. Oh, if we only had every tax cut that had been promised to us by the parties who got elected into power. If I recall a little bit of my world history the United States was born out of frustration with taxes that were being paid to the Crown.
I understand here in Canada the Canadian Revenue Agency has come up with a new motto: It used to be: More Ways to Serve You, but now it is: “We’ve got what it takes to take what you’ve got.”
And taxes have been a touchy subject as long as there have been taxes being paid, and that has been for quite a long time. How do you think the Egyptians built the pyramids, or the Myans built their cities, or the Romans constructed the aqueducts and coliseums?
And as long as there have been folks collecting taxes there have been folks resenting having their taxes collected. Throughout the New Testament the term “Tax Collector” is often used in statements like Matthew 9:10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. Or Mark 2:16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” Nice. And when the religious leaders criticized Jesus one of the charges was Matthew 11:19 . . .‘He’s a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’
So here we are in week last of our Stewardship month. You can all breathe a sigh of relief. Through the month of April we have been looking at what Jesus said about Money. So on April 1 we looked at “Don’t Serve Money”, on the 15th it was “Be Careful Where You Store Your Treasures” and last week was “Don’t Worry About Money”.
Sometimes pastors choose to not speak about money in church, maybe in hopes that somehow their people will learn about it on their own, perhaps by osmosis. Or maybe it's because they feel that talking about money is too personal or too obtrusive. but Jesus talked a lot about money, he talked about the way people make it and what they do with it after they have it. And because money is talked about in the scriptures, and because Jesus seemed to attach a great deal of importance to it, to the point of linking it to our eternities it is something that needs to be addressed. And we can’t just ignore it because it bothers some people and offends other people.
Seriously, what would happen if every preacher prepared his messages to not offend or bother anyone? You might as well open fortune cookies.
But apparently Jesus wasn’t afraid to express his opinion on a wide variety of topics that are deemed off limits today. People’s behaviour, people’s attitudes and people’s money. Surprisingly though, especially if you are in the habit of watching the political situation in the States, Jesus never talked about politics. He never told people how to vote, never expressed a preference for a certain political party, never wore a campaign button or endorsed any particular candidate or political party. Just sayin’.
And this is how this particular story of Jesus happened. Matthew 22:15 Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. In the original language it says “they wanted to ensnare him with his own words”. And so the Pharisees enlisted some unlikely allies, in the NLT we are told they were “supporters of Herod” the actual word used was “Herodians”.
So on one side you have the Pharisees, the religious elite of the Jews and on the other side you have the Herodians who through their support of Herod, the puppet king of Palestine, are de-facto supporters of Rome. What is that old saying about “strange bed-fellows”?
And so this unlikely and unholy union asks Jesus a question that on the outside seems like simple curiosity. Matthew 22:16-17 They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favourites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”