Sunday 22nd October (Ordinary 29) by Local Preacher, David Carter
Psalm 99; Exodus 33 : 12–23; 1 Thessalonians 1 :1- 10; Matthew 22 : 15 – 22
The four passages for reflection this week are all interesting, but I intend to concentrate on the two New Testament passages.
Matthew 22 : 15 – 22 gives an account of a trick question, designed to trap Jesus. It is followed by a sequel, which strangely does not feature in the lectionary.
The Pharisees hope to trick Jesus into saying something which will either discredit him with his fellow Jews or will bring him the notice of the ruthless Romans as a potential revolutionary. If he says paying tax to the Emperor is lawful, it will discredit him with his own people, who pay the hated foreign taxes because they have to bow to superior force and will see Jesus as betraying any hopes that he might be a liberator. If by contrast he denies the lawfulness of paying tax to the emperor, then it will not be difficult to make him a marked man in Roman eyes.
Jesus cleverly gets round the question, leaving people to puzzle out his answer and posing a question that we need to answer in the very changed conditions of today. Jews and all other subject races had no alternative but to pay the hated conquerors or face consequences far more serious that a modern tax letter from the Inland Revenue. We live in a country where we have to pay tax but through the democratic process, we can have a say on what the Government should ask us to pay and on what it is spent. This gives us a responsibility to speak up and to allow for what the Bible quite clearly teaches about the responsibility of those in power to see that the power they exercise and the revenue they extract from us are used for purposes of which God can approve as well as the community. We know that God’s will is justice for those who lose out in this life. It is his preference for the poor and that should determine Christian attitudes to all aspects of taxation and expenditure by the powers that be. We are in a more favourable, but also more responsibly demanding situation, than were the Jews within the Roman Empire.
At the beginning of 1 Thessalonians : 1–10 Paul is writing to one of the first churches he founded and his tone is more benign than it was in some of his other letters. By and large, he is very encouraging and tells the Thessalonians that they are respected for their welcome to Paul’s mission and their progress in growing in faith and Christian witness since. It represents Paul doing something all Christian ministers should do, encouraging their people in everything good that they are able to do in Christ’s name.
Father, as we seek to live the Christian life in our churches and local communities give us grace to see what you will is for us in each situation.
May your Holy Spirit lead us into all the truth that you wish us to receive in guidance. Amen.