Summary: "What’s in your wallet" is to used as responsible citizens and to support God’s purposes in the world.
Title: Show Me the Money
Text: Matthew 22:15-22
The Big Idea: “What’s in your wallet” is to be used as responsible citizens and to support God’s purposes in the world.
On Thursday, September 18, 2008, Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate Joe Biden appeared on ABC Good Morning America. At one point, the interviewer spoke of how, under the economic proposals of his party, wealthier Americans would pay more taxes. Senator Biden defended the proposal saying, “It’s time to be patriotic… time to jump in, time to be part of the deal, time to help get America out of the rut.” (Douglas K. Daniel, Biden calls paying higher taxes a patriotic act, Associated Press, September 18, 2008)
In our culture, it seems to be a question of who gets tax relief… the wealthy and big business or the middle class? Pledges to lower taxes are welcomed and promises to raise taxes… not so much. Philosophically, one party calls the other the “tax and spend party” and the “tax and spend party” in response, labels their accusers the “borrow and spend party.”
Already some of us are squirming. Everyone knows that one never discusses politics or religion in polite company… However, whatever your political persuasion, Jesus does lay down a very basic principle that remains applicable in every culture and in every time and in every place.
The topic of our text today focuses on an issue that has pertinence in every era and every culture… the Christian’s relationship to government.
We begin with the understanding that religion and politics are political hot buttons.
1. Religion and Politics Are Cultural Hot Buttons
“Teacher, we know how honest you are. You are impartial and you don’t play favorites. You sincerely teach the ways of God. Now tell us, is it right to pay taxes to the Roman government or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” Mark 12:14-15
Some say religion and politics do not mix because when they do there is an explosion.
Religious persons use politics to further their agendas and political persons use religion to further their agendas. I think that is a fair and objective statement. It was the way it was in Jesus’ time and it remains so today. However, today in politics it is a game of capturing the Christian Flag while in Jesus’ day it was about capturing the Jewish Flag. I don’t know whether to call it the politicalization of religion or the religionization of politics. How’s that for a couple of words of questionable origin?
The setting is that of a Town Hall Meeting where carefully prepared questions are posed to a person while a crowd of people look on and listen… the objective is not only to find out what a person thinks but to ask questions in such a way as to discredit the one answering the questions.
In the Presidential Candidate Debates and in particular the third, it was said, “one candidate was hoping to goad the other into an outburst or a mistake that would alter the shape of the next three weeks.” The political columnist capitalizing on the oft used references to the campaigners’ willingness to fight, continued, “For a punch to make a difference the punch needs to do something to the target – to rattle, to wound, or cause him to counter punch in a self-defeating way.” (Patrick Healy, McCain Attacks but Obama Steady, New York Times, Politics, October 18, 2008)
In our story today the religious leaders are trying to goad Jesus into saying something that would either get him arrested by the Roman governmental authorities or discredit himself with his Jewish community. I believe our text says they were laying a trap for Jesus in which they could get him to say something that would get him arrested.
They begin with a little flattery… they are hoping to soften Jesus up a bit then when he relaxed a bit, they would then give him the shiv.
“Teacher, we know how honest you are. You are impartial and you don’t play favorites. You sincerely teach the ways of God.” Mark 12:14
At least in some sporting events the contestants have the honesty to just skip all the pretense and get to it… they enter the ring or the octagon looking all menacing, lips curled like snarling dogs, and glowering to each other as if looks could kill. But not religious leaders and not politicians. They enter the ring all smiley.
They say, “It’s a pleasure to be here tonight and a tremendous honor to share center stage with you… my esteemed opponent.” Perhaps we should just chalk it up to at least, having the civility to begin civilly. But as soon as the gratuitous courtesy is out of the way, they let fly with a sucker punch. And here it is…