Is 45:1, 4-6; 1Thes 1: 1-5b; Mt 22: 15-21
“Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?” This question, posed to Jesus by the disciples of some of the Pharisees, provides us with an opportunity to think about the difference between good questions and bad questions. Good questions, be they small (Do I need to take my umbrella with me today?) or large (What is God’s Will for my life?) put us on the road to expanding our experience of Truth even if that truth is as simple as today’s weather. Bad questions trap us in our preexisting prejudices or false understandings of ourselves and the world outside ourselves.
These disciples of the Pharisees – men trained in asking good questions – are asking a bad one. They have no interest in learning anything from Jesus, but merely wish to “entrap him by his speech.” If Jesus says , “Yes, you should pay your taxes.”, then they can accuse him of being a Roman sympathizer. If he says, “No, you shouldn’t pay your taxes.”, now they have evidence they can use to label him an insurrectionist and have him crucified. Either way, Jesus’ influence will be curtailed.
A worthwhile reflection this week would be to keep a log of the questions that you ask – of other people, of yourself,and, perhaps most importantly, of God. How many of them are honest searches for truth? How many of them are really intended to reinforce something you already believe to be true?
Here’s how you tell the difference – when you get an answer you didn’t expect, are you delighted, or annoyed?
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgirm)
(To purchase book-length versions of my reflections on the scriptures, go to www.twentythirdpublications.com. My most recent book is entitled, Make Room for Scripture.)