Wednesday, June 20th. Mark 12:13-17

Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him. Mark 12:13-17


Notice right away that two groups are named here as attacking Jesus here.  The Pharisees (the religious moral reform party in favor of Jewish independence from Rome) and the Herodians (political supporters of King Herod Antipas, to whom the Roman government had given authority over Galilee and central Israel.)  The Pharisees and the Herodians would never be on the same side of the fence.  To see these two groups come together is to imagine Barack Obama and Mitt Romney joining forces because they are afraid of Ron Paul.


Politics does make strange bedfellows.  Especially when the quest is for power and influence which may, or may not, have anything to do with justice and the common good.


I know, I know, I know…it isn’t polite to talk about religion, sex, and politics.  But what am i supposed to do?  I’m sitting here in my pajamas, thinking out loud about a passage of the Bible where Jesus clearly tells us to pay whatever taxes we are to pay.  I can’t help myself.


YES, this is a political text.


Jesus sidesteps their trap with a trap of their own.  To pay taxes to the emperor was distasteful to the Pharisees (tithes are supposed to come off the top of our income…but the emperor always jumps to the head of the line.)  To pay to God the things that are God’s (like, for example, our lives, our devotion, our fidelity) seems quaint foolishness to the real politic world of the Herodians.


Both groups are fingered.  Both groups are challenged.  As are we.


God is God of all creation – sex, religion, and politics all fall under God’s domain.  We might find it difficult to decide together what that means for us but stony silence is no more the answer (nor is it possible), than hiding behind the smokescreen of theocracy.  God knows that when broken people come to share life together in community they will need leadership or they will live in chaos.  Christian stewardship includes our care over all things in our lives, and yes, that includes paying taxes.


But listen carefully to Jesus’ answer and there is no doubt, although the emperor is listed first, a denarius is trivial.  The ultimate authority remains God, whether the emperor likes that or not.


Let us pray:  Dear Jesus, we read of these groups of people continually trying to trap you, to test you, to win you to their side or just to get rid of you.  We pray today for the humility and courage, not to impose our will on you but to surrender ourselves to your will for us.  We pray for the authorities in our lives, both secular and religious, that we might live and walk ever closer to justice and the common good.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


2 Responses to “Wednesday, June 20th. Mark 12:13-17”

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