Reading: Luke 20.20-47
Scripture: "Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?"
He saw through their duplicity and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?"
"Caesar's," they replied.
He said to them, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
Observations: The Parable of the Tenants inflamed opposition from the powers that be in the city of Jerusalem. They determined to stop him, but they had to do it in a way that wouldn't spark a riot among the people who were so enthralled by him. They tried unsuccessfully to arrest Jesus and then they sent spies to trap him with a question that would either get him in trouble with the Romans, who wanted the taxes paid, or the Jews, who did not. Jesus saw through the trap and adeptly avoided it.
Apply: Can you sense the politically-charged atmosphere in Jerusalem? Reading this account is like watching a television journalist asking a presidential candidate what he thinks about abortion, the war, or universal health care. No matter what answer the politician gives he will alienate half of the voters. If Jesus answered one way he would be accused of being unpatriotic, if he answered the other way he would be deemed irreligious. Jesus refused to be labeled and marginalized by the smear tactics of the "media." Of course the message he proclaimed had political ramifications, but Jesus' upside-down kind of kingdom refused to be pigeonholed into the conventional partisan politics of his day. We would do well to avoid the tactics of those duplicitous politicians in Jerusalem and follow Jesus' example.
Here we are 2000 years later and we see that politicians and media are using these same tactics with greater sophistication than ever. In the coming weeks and months we will be barraged by the best that money can buy. May we be as sly as Jesus to discern the smears and half-truths that are used from all sides so we can avoid being manipulated by it all. After all, no matter who is in the White House, Jesus' kingdom will always be the upside-down, in-the-world-but-not-of-the-world, Spirit-filled, loving-the-least-of-these force in the world.
Prayer: Lord, may we be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. With all the lies and distortions that are being spread about our potential leaders, help us to be at peace knowing that You are our true Leader and our Lord. And may we display your wisdom and your ways when we are tempted to stoop to the deceitful tactics of this fallen world.