Father Mark, Sermons

Proper 24A; Matthew 22:15 ff; 10/22/17

If you were on a government finance committee, how would you change the tax code if at all?

Did you experience any feelings at all when I said, “tax code?”  What might the feelings be about?

You might have something in common with the Judeans.  What would be your intention behind changing the tax code and what values would underlie your proposed changes?

In Jesus’ time, taxes were an issue.  Everyone paid property taxes. Taxes were also paid on livestock as property.  But Judea also paid an additional head or poll tax.  In order for Judea to remain an independent protectorate under Roman occupation, people had to pay a tribute tax to the Roman government as a tribute to Caesar. This tribute tax was levied on the people by their own rulers.

Offering a tribute tax agitated the people as paying tribute to Caesar.  Caesar proclaimed himself as divine, a god, and paying a tribute to Caesar was considered idolatry. There was no first amendment in Judea.

This is the classic “double bind.”  Pay the tribute tax and you’re an idolater and unpatriotic.  Rebel against the tax and your community will be sacked.  In order to discredit Jesus, the Pharisees stick Jesus with this double bind on the tribute tax. Ha! We’ve got him,” they thought. “Either way, Jesus answers, we’ve got him.” What the Pharisees did not understand and what Jesus did understand, is that double binds do not exist in spiritual reality. The spiritual realm transcends human thought and polarity.

The Spirit can enlighten the mind because the mind only functions as good as the spiritual health and development of the person using it.  Another word for this is wisdom which is not the same as intelligence. Intelligence may know how to facilitate something but wisdom knows when and how to use it.

Jesus doesn’t get caught in double binds.  Truth transcends polarized double binds. Denari coins were minted at the imperial mint with the image of Caesar.  The temple coin, shekel, had no image or inscription on it, representing a quantity of gold or silver. Roman money was exchanged for temple shekels.  Give Caesar his money and offer the shekel to God. In reality, there was no double bind at all.

The Pharisees and the people at large, lacked the spiritual insight to comprehend this.

There is a saying that, how can the same mind that created the problem, fix the problem?”  It cannot.

I find it interesting how people try the same methods over and over that do not work expecting different results.  Insanity.

When fear consumes us, it motivates us to try to protect ourselves from problems that do not exist, keeping us in a state of dualistic conflict. The central issue is allowing the Holy Spirit to cultivate wisdom in our hearts which creates within us a vision of truth and reality and enough peace to ride through the storm. If our first intention is to be connected to God, then eventually, all things can come into place without an inordinate amount of conflict. But intention is critical.

When we find ourselves in a double bind, our instincts are to think harder when in spiritual reality we can begin to be released from double bind by listening more to the Spirit’s direction. The Spirit will help us to see reality clearly and give us the will to choose it, being delivered from the incessant conflict and angst of the double binds that are created by the weakness of the mind.

When you find yourself in a double bind, the Scriptures are clear: Be still and know that I am God.  Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.

Pray with me…
by repeating the words, Be still and know that I am God.  

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