Scripture Reading: Matthew 22:15-22
Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ –Matthew 22:15-17
Political leaders in Washington DC and Oklahoma are under the delusion that cutting taxes will put more money back into the economy. The fact they seem to miss is that we invest the vast majority of tax money quickly back into our economy. Roads are built and maintained by people who work. In Oklahoma, last year 12 rule hospitals filed for bankruptcy, and three closed primarily from cuts in federal health care spending robbing entire communities of readily accessible health care not to mention jobs lost.
Civil government has played an important role in the development of our world since families grew to tribes and tribes needed to interact to provide for the Common Good. We may all want to gripe about paying taxes, but government serves a necessary purpose. Yes, governments need to operate efficiently and effectively and yes, governments need to handle our tax dollars wisely. The protection of the Common Good is the foundation for our otherwise thriving.
Pitting the church against the government as the Pharisees were trying to do in our scripture today is trying to catch Jesus in the politics of the day. Living under the Roman rule where its subjects were not a part of the decision-making process dictated a choice between following the rules or facing serious consequences. Rome’s religious tolerance ended at the tax collectors’ tables. Protections against such practices are in our Constitution, not to limit religion but to protect all citizens from having someone else’s religion imposed on them.
We, too, get caught up in the politics of the day, and it colors our decision-making practices as citizens in a democratic society where we do have responsibilities for assuring quality governance in the provision of the Common Good. We cannot and should not force our religious beliefs through laws on others. We can, and we must live our faith through our participation as citizens. Walking that tightrope takes courage and trust that Jesus taught us what was important. The thing is the Common Good fits nicely with Jesus’ teachings like feeding the hungry.
Prayer: Lord, give us the vision we need to see past politics and find the way to the Common Good. Amen.