Week of Proper 15, Year One[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]
Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 119:145-176 (morning) // 128, 129, 130 (evening)
2 Samuel 18:19-33
In today’s gospel, it seems like Jesus could use a break from politics. Couldn’t we all? When different groups of people try to entangle Jesus in questions of taxes or marriage law, Jesus limits his engagement. Instead, Jesus tries to point people to a context and offer them a kingdom where such questions hardly matter at all.
First, the Pharisees and Herodians approach Jesus with a question about taxes. Specifically, they want to know whether they should pay the tax that the Roman empire required of Jews. To pay that tax might imply an acknowledgement of imperial authority, when God alone should be the sovereign of God’s people. Jesus cleverly points out that the coins themselves already have the emperor’s image stamped on them, and Jesus tells the people, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” In other words, why become so preoccupied with where we put a few of our dollars, when we should be putting every one of our gifts–and our life itself!–at the disposal of God?
Next, some Sadducees approach Jesus with a hypothetical question about marriage law. If a man marries and dies, and then each of his six brothers marries the widow and dies in succession without producing any children, whose wife will she be after death? The Sadducees are narrowly focused on establishing marriage laws that tightly regulate social order and the inheritance of property. Jesus, however, points the Sadducees to another reality entirely: “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Why become so obsessed with marriage regulations, when we should be defining ourselves as servants of the living God and not as property of one another?
Living as citizens of this world, we know all too well that questions of where to put tax dollars and who can marry whom have serious, real consequences. If we can spend our taxes and legally recognize relationships in ways that increase the quality of life and love in this world, then let it be done. But hopefully these matters won’t absorb all our best energies or consume all our best efforts. Jesus wants to direct us away from these politics and toward a fuller self-offering to God and to one another. Pursuing justice in concrete ways is one component of our faith, but so is taking a break from politics from time to time. Jesus has so much more to offer us than these squabbles.
Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.