If you want to offend someone, telling them what to do with their money is a good way to go. It is a very “personal” matter, but one Jesus spoke about quite a lot. Mind you, when the Pharisees ask a question about tax (Matthew 22:15-22), it is rather like the bolas they use in South America – 2 or 3 balls linked with cord, thrown to tangle the legs of an animal and bring it down.
The question to Jesus was a trick – they thought they would trip him whichever answer he gave. Money was a key issue, as emotive then as now. “Don’t pay tax” might be popular, but treason would be reported him to authorities.
“Pay tax” would discredit Jesus as a true Jew, painting him as a collaborator with the Roman occupation. Whatever Jesus says, it will be unpopular – telling people what to do with their money usually is.
But Jesus escapes – not with a clever answer, but with the right one. We need to take note of it. Loyalty to God is most important, but it doesn’t let us off all other commitments. In this case, you can pay tax without being unfaithful (it’s still true).
- Pay tax, even to “pagan Caesar”, for the peace, justice and trade you enjoy, even in a difficult regime
- pay God, to whom you owe everything [perhaps we forget that is part of our religion]
Why do we give as part of our faith? Recognising:
- God created it all
- God paid the price for us when we could not
- because, especially in our culture, this is how we express thanks and commitment.
Money is a tricky subject. Jesus didn’t give it a wide berth and avoid offending people. He said that our use of money is part of our faith, part of a response to the love of God which has to involve every part of our lives. In fact, giving is part of the gospel Good News. It reminds us of the good things we have (not only the material ones!), and makes clear our thanks and commitment to the Giver.