DOUBT AND BELIEF
Lord, Your people are too smart to think that we can fool You for an instant.
Read MATTHEW 22:15–22
Paying the Imperial Tax to Caesar
15 Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16 They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17 Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”
18 But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19 Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”
21 “Caesar’s,” they replied.
Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
22 When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Bring to mind a piece of dense woodland that you are familiar with. Imagine trying to find a pathway through it. Invite God to accompany you.
In the English language there are two types of questions. Open questions encourage an answer that is developed, offering options, and facilitating a continuing debate. Closed questions, like the one set before Jesus, demand a yes or a no. So, the unholy alliance of Pharisees and Herodians sets a trap for Jesus. If his answer is yes, then the Herodians will be pleased, as it justifies their policy of collaboration with the Romans, but the Pharisees are then handed a reason to incite the crowd (which doesn’t like Roman oppression) against Jesus. If his answer is no, then they can label Jesus as a rebel and can charge him with sedition.
Closed questions see the world as black and white. It makes life simpler. Yet reality is rarely like this. Living by faith involves hope, rather than certainty, about what we can’t see rather than what is always clear. Living by faith at times forces an acknowledgment that there is more than one side to an issue, as Jesus is aware of here. In our contemporary world, that might include such issues as politics, wealth and medical ethics. Maybe living by faith is one long open question, in which doubt and uncertainty are constant companions—along with belief and assurance. This is how it was for the disciple Thomas and the father of the child healed by Jesus, who exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).
Jesus’ open response to the closed question hinges on the phrase “give back” in verse 21. The purpose of a tax is to pay for the benefits we receive from a structured society. Praise, worship, and obedience are what we give back to God for who he is, what he has done, and what he continues to do for us. There is no contradiction here. We are and remain citizens of two kingdoms.
Take a copy of today’s news and note each story that is hard to reconcile with your Christian faith. Ask God for wisdom in understanding the issues.
Lord, help me to obey You in all things.
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