Skip to main content

Taxes & Tithes?

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary for this week is from Mark 12:13-17.  The pharisees send some government devotees to stump Jesus.  They start with flattering words, but press in with a question that is designed to trap him. They ask if it is lawful to pay taxes. 

The law found in scripture was designed for a theocracy where the religious and government leaders were the same, but they lived in a time under an occupying force.  This makes this question sticky and difficult to answer.  If Jesus says they should not pay taxes then the occupying force has evidence that Jesus is a rebel and guilty of treason, but if he says they should pay taxes then he is adding to the law and further oppressing the poor who often surrounded him.

Jesus calls this out for what it is but decides to play along anyway.  He asked for a coin and pointed out the face of Caesar on the coin.  He answers the question and instructs the crowd at the same time "Give to Caesar what is his, and give to God what is His".  Essentially Jesus says you must pay taxes and you must tithe, but his answer is far more nuanced than that. 

Tithes and offerings were not originally set up with coins or currency in mind.  When you made offerings you were offering grain and animals.  Farmers gave grain, shepherds gave sheep, beekeepers gave honey, carpenters gave furniture, masons helped build the temple, etc.  You were offering food and real goods.  These were then consumed by the Levites, who were not allowed to own land, or used in the temple. Leftovers were stored and given to the poor.  Money only came into this equation later when people started doing work that did not have a real product.  So, in today's society what is God's and what is the government's?

For some of us, this is just as simple as it always was.  Jesus says to pay taxes with your money but to offer whatever you produce to the church as a tithe or offering.  This includes your home gardens and hobbies.  For many of us though, it is not so simple.  If you do not own the company then it is not your produce to give.  You may use your skills to make some for the church, but what if that is not possible?  Or, what if you don't produce a real product at all?  What about a childcare worker, teachers, waiters, customer service, etc?

I believe the key to this question lies in how he identified what was Caesars.  Caesar's face was marked on the coin, so it must be Caesars.  Where is the face of God marked?  Well, you of course.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.  You are the temple of God, made with the image woven into the fiber of your being.  So what does it mean to give to God what is God's?  It means to give all of yourself.  Give your gifts, your talents, your heart.  God does not want a single gift from you out of obligation, but he does want your heart, and with that will naturally come an outpouring of your gifts and talents.  You will make this place more like God's place by being Christ's hands and feet in this world.  That may be through money in the offering plate, or through serving in the church, but it could also be from helping your neighbor or your community.  What does it mean for you to give to God what is God's in your life?  I would love to hear your thoughts, comment below.


Popular posts from this blog

Death Will Lose it's Sting

Our reading from the Narrative Lectionary this week is 1 Corinthians 15:51-57. In these verses, Paul reveals a mystery, that in the end some will be transformed, given a new body, instead of facing death.  In other words death is not one of life's two certain terms.  It seems taxes may be the only guarantee.   " this world nothing can be said to be certain, except  death and taxes ." - Benjamin Franklin. Ok, all jokes aside, these verses are difficult to read.  Paul looks forward to a time when death will have no victory, it will have lost its sting.  But today, we are in the middle of a pandemic, surrounded by death.  Many are scared for their lives, or their loved ones, and too many have already been lost.  Death does not seem to have lost its sting at all, it feels as if it is closing in. When I worked in wilderness therapy I remember holding a child who was desperately trying to kill himself.  We cried together as he struggled to end it, and I struggled

The Return Threshold

  As we come near the end of our weekly series on the Hero's Journey, today we will cover "The Return Threshold".  In this stage, the Hero has succeeded in their quest and now they are coming back to their old world.  Joseph Campbell calls this the "ordinary world".   The return to the ordinary world usually includes some type of challenge.  Sometimes an enemy must be challenged, but sometimes the enemy is the ordinary world itself.  As we have followed the hero's journey we have seen the hero change, what was once important is no longer important.  While the hero has changed, the ordinary world has not.  The ordinary world holds values that the returning hero has abandoned for something greater.  This can cause tension as the hero tries to return as a changed person. In the Lord of the Rings trilogy, we see the Hobbits finally return to their home in the Shire.  Unfortunately in their absence Saruman and his orcs have taken over the Shire and must be defeat

Master of Two Worlds

  This week we come to the second to last stage of the Hero's Journey.  Campbell called this stage "The Master of Two Worlds".  In this stage, the hero tries to integrate what they learned and gained on their journey with their old "ordinary" world.   Albert Einstein once said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."  This explains the challenge the hero must face in this stage.  All that they learned and gained must be fully mastered and the test of this mastery is being able to use it in the ordinary world.  They must simplify it so that the uninitiated can benefit from it, just as Einstein encouraged the mastery of complex ideas into simple explanations.   In the Star Wars Trilogy, this stage happens off-screen after the film is over, but before the new movie begins.  We learn in the newest trilogy that Luke created a school for Jedi, taking the wisdom he gained from his journey and sharing it with others.  In