The Pharisees set out to trap Jesus, sending folks who work for them, along with representatives of the Roman hierarchy, to Jesus in our Gospel selection from Matthew today. They set themselves up for failure. Sending folks who work for them along with the hired guns of the Romans, and then ask if payment of taxes to the conquerers is okay, is a bit of a set up for not succeeding.
And Jesus sees the obvious, calls them hypocrites, quite deservedly, and then gives an answer worthy of volumes of reflection. Looking at a Roman coin with the depiction of the emperor emblazoned on it, Jesus says Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's. This simple statement sums up so much of what Jesus has been trying to teach in Matthew: a different world view of what is important, of what we should be focused on while living into being the Body of Christ in the world today.
In this season of Advent, as we prepare ourselves, once again, for the celebration of God coming among us as fully human and fully divine, on what are we focused? Are we caught up in something that would be better set aside? Are worried about "what to get (fill-in-the-blank)" as opposed to considering giving a gift that will actually last? What can we focus on this day that will bring the coming celebration of the Incarnation more relevant for us, more personal, more real.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.