October 20, 2002

Matthew 22:15-22

That's when the Pharisees plotted a way to trap him into saying something damaging. They sent their disciples, with a few of Herod's followers mixed in, to ask, "Teacher, we know you have integrity, teach the way of God accurately, are indifferent to popular opinion, and don't pander to your students. So tell us honestly: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

Jesus knew they were up to no good. He said, "Why are you playing these games with me? Why are you trying to trap me? Do you have a coin? Let me see it." They handed him a silver piece.

"This engraving--who does it look like? And whose name is on it?"

They said, "Caesar."

"Then give Caesar what is his, and give God what is his."

The Pharisees were speechless. They went off shaking their heads.

<The Message>


1. This is a fine example of holding people to the literalness of their very own words. Usually when people talk they leave themselves open to being caught on a technicality that can be instructive. The reason most of us get caught in the traps of language without finding the escape hatch is that we neither listen carefully enough before we speak nor spend the time to clarify what is being said. With careful and clarifying listening we can mutually learn something about life.

2. It is my hope that you have someone in your life who can really listen to you for a least a couple of minutes a day. Even if what they reflect back to you makes you shake your head, it is a most valuable gift to get to the point of not knowing how to respond. It opens up a new edge of life.

This is partly what a spiritual director does and you are encouraged to engage one and to practice being one for someone else.

3. It takes some integrity and indifference (in equal measures?) to be able to listen carefully. To reverse that - it is important to listen well because that is a route to engaged integrity and divine indifference.

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