Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Just be a good citizen and pay your taxes?

Whats your favorite commercial?

Do you have any money with you?
Take it out and examine it...
Write down what you see.

Mat 17:24
After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax

Adult Jewish males throughout the Empire paid an annual two-drachma tax based on Exodus 30:13-16, for the upkeep of the temple. Priests were exempt from the two-drachma tax, but even more significant here, dependents of a king were naturally exempt from his taxes... But lets roll on here.

Mat 17:25
"Yes, he does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes-from their own sons or from others?"

Notice that Jesus doesn't need to ask Peter what the men wanted. They did not approach Jesus directly, even though they obviously knew he was back in town, but choose instead to try and collect from one of his disciples. What do you think that means?

One has to wonder if they somehow felt subbed. How could this famous (or rather infamous by this point) Rabbi come to their town and not come to see them? Didn't he know how important they were? Didn't he know that they were the pious ones? Not only that but he had not even paid his taxes yet...

Mat 17:26
"From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him.

At this point Jesus could have left it alone... Or He could have kicked the door open and laid the smack down (We know he was not afraid to do just that). But He chooses a different option.

Mat 17:27
"But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

First notice Jesus and his disciples are without money...

And what is this coin in a fishes mouth?
And note that the fish has just enough money for the tax not a surplus...

Lets look at another time Jesus interacted the powerful and talked about taxes (and or mass media)...

Who were the Pharisees?
Who were the Herodians?

The Pharisees thought conspiring with Rome was tantamount to treason against God. And the Heordians got their power because they continued to conspire with Rome.

Mat 22:15
Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words.

Mat 22:16
They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. "Teacher," they said, "we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren't swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are.

The pharisees would not be seen in public with the herodians, so they send their disciples... (we see this in modern culture when a political party sends its public relations folks out as media pundits and experts of one kind or another)

Mat 22:17
Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"

Mat 22:18
But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?

Mat 22:19
Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius,

Funny again nether Jesus nor any of his disciples have a coin on them...

They think they have devised a clever trap for him:

If he sides with paying taxes to Caesar then all of the people he has been traveling with, healing, and teaching are left out to dry. He would be endorsing an unjust system.


If he says don't pay your taxes then he is guilty of conspiring against Rome.
* this is one of the reasons they give Pilate to have Jesus put to death.Luke 23:1-2

But Jesus sees this as a trap from the minute they open their mouths...

Mat 22:20
and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

If you live in a world with no TV or Radio or any other form of mass media, How do you get your message out across a wide geographic and economic spectrum of people?
How can you make everyone remember it?

Who uses Money? Everyone
Who knows what is on a bill?
Have you ever seen someone check a $100 dollar bill?
They hold it up to the light to look for special threads and water marks, they feel the paper for the right thickness and texture, they may even have a special pen or marker that changes color when the bill is real...

Caesar minted coins. The only official coin of the whole empire. These coins had his image on them. And they had his Gospel.

The root of the word evangelical, evangel, is derived from the Greek word euangelion which is often translated as “good news.” From that same word, we derive the word gospel. In the ancient Roman imperial world, the “gospel” (euangelion) was a proclamation that the “kingdom” of Caesar was at hand and that Caesar was the “Savior” who had established peace and security, this was accomplished by military invasion and subsequent crucifying of anyone who opposed Roman rule.

Mat 22:21
"Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

What does that last line mean?

Is it a reference to Gen 1:26:
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

Also notice Jesus doesn't say then pay the Tax, he says give back to Caesar what is his, all of the coins have his image and inscription on them!

Mat 22:22
When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Its almost like an inside joke at this point... Can you hear the disciples snickering and saying "remember the fish"

What was Jesus saying to the Pharisees and Herodians?

Often these text are interpreted as Jesus saying "Just be a good citizen and pay your taxes." But That complete misses the point here.

Because coins were the mass media of the first century, Jesus is essentially saying reject and give back this false image, this false gospel, that has been handed to you. And Give to God all of yourself and all of creation, because God will settle nothing less...

Remember that list I told you to make, at the begining of this post, of the things you saw on the money you have with you?

Whats on the list?

Does the fact that someone consciously borrowed Gods name mean the money is any less secular?

Who does that money belong to?

What do commercials teach you?
Is it God honoring?

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