October 17, 1999

Matthew 22:15-22

The Pharisees got together and planned how they could trick Jesus into saying something wrong. They sent some of their followers and some of Herod's followers to say to him, "Teacher, we know that you are honest; You teach the truth about what God wants people to do. And you treat everyone with the same respect, no matter who they are. Tell us what you think! Should we pay taxes to the Emperor or not?"

Jesus knew their evil thoughts and said, "Why are you trying to test me? You show-offs! Let me see on of the coins used for paying taxes." They brought him a silver coin, and he asked, "Whose picture and name are on it?"

"The Emperor's," they answered.

Then Jesus told them, "Give the Emperor what belongs to him and give God what belongs to God." His answer surprised them so much that they walked away. [CEV]


1. We are always in the process of being tested. A trick is always being played on us. The Trickster or Tester doesn't give up. In part the tricks keep coming because our track record isn't very good -- we usually have weak spot or we get tired and forget how to be creative in the midst of life.

2. Arthur Waskow helps us think about this when he talks about production and consumption being two sides of the same coin and all those coins look alike. He contrasts this with the coins of YHWH which are all different for the Great One cannot be captured with any one representation. In a sense this is a contrast between dead coins and a static orientation toward "It's the economy, stupid!" and living coins and a dynamic orientation toward the toast/blessing "To Life!"

3. Let's try a related question: "Should you offer blessing to GOD or not?"
     If you were brought forth as the test case, what would be the response when Jesus asked, "Whose picture and name are on you or in you or just plain is you." If GOD can be identified, does that answer the question?
     It may be that the crux of this tale is in the way Jesus is identified -- "you treat everyone with the same respect, no matter who they are." This gives credence to the living coin motif, each different manifestations of YHWH, the breath of life. This gives focus to Jesus' followers in how they are to so live in order to deal with the trickster who tries to get us all thinking the same way in order make it easier to attack our corporate blind spots. If we honored everyone's gifts of the spirit we would fill in those blind spots.

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