Jesus And Taxes
The saying goes that the only things in life that are certain are Death and Taxes. And while that may or may not be true (and while it is certainly a cynical way of viewing the world–do you see what I did there?), Jesus, I think, would like to add something to the list. But we’ll circle back around to that in a moment.
Money is one of the most talked about topics in the recorded ministry of Jesus. It is among the top four or five topics that Jesus teaches on. And that ought to tell us something. In fact, it tells us something rather important. Our monies, if we will let them, can rule our lives. But Jesus knows this, and so he teaches on how to be generous. How to multiply an attitude of gratitude and not just numbers in a bank account. How to be good stewards. How to be shrewd with finances. And on and on the list could go. Jesus knows that if we don’t give attention to how we are using our money, our money will end up using us.
And this seems to be exactly the point of an encounter that Jesus has with the Pharisees and supporters of Herod in Mark 12.
Take a moment and read this passage in Mark 12:12-17.
This is such a brilliant scene! Here we see the Pharisees and other opponents of Jesus trying to butter him up with compliments only to catch him in a trap, but Jesus doesn’t fall for it. He sees right through it, and he gives a simple, elegant response that reminds us all that Jesus just sees the world differently than most of us do. Jesus sees the world through the lens of how to serve God, while most of us see the world through the lens of how to serve ourselves or to get ahead.
Jesus says to give to Caesar (and for that matter, to anyone) what is Caesar’s, and to give to God what is God’s. In one simple sentence, Jesus gives us a way of viewing the world and everything in it through a spiritual/faith-based lens. Everything ultimately can be given to God if we understand the world as a gift from God. And so, we don’t need to hold onto our money with stingy hands. We don’t need to give our portfolios the center of our hearts (or really much of our hearts at all!). We are to be about God’s plans and purposes. If money can support those plans and purposes, then great! If not, if money becomes a hindrance to us because of its allure and temptation, then just give it away. It’s just money.
So, if Death and Taxes are a certainty in life, I think Jesus would add to the list devotion to God–seeing all things as a gift of God and responding to them appropriately. In fact, this might replace the list for those who are willing to choose the way of Jesus. After all, if we follow the way of Christ, Death suddenly doesn’t seem so permanent. And Taxes? It’s just money, and it doesn’t rule your life. It doesn’t belong to you anyway.
So, this week, I hope that we will hear this words of Jesus, and live by them. May we give to God what is God’s. I think we might find that if we do, we will have much to give, and much to be thankful for.