Blessed… It’s a Trap

Then the Pharisees met together to find a way to trap Jesus in his words. They sent their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are genuine and that you teach God’s way as it really is. We know that you are not swayed by people’s opinions, because you don’t show favoritism. So tell us what you think: Does the Law allow people to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” Knowing their evil motives, Jesus replied, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites?  Show me the coin used to pay the tax.” And they brought him a denarion. “Whose image and inscription is this?” he asked.  “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” When they heard this they were astonished, and they departed (Matthew 22:15-22, Common English Bible).

You are asked an innocent question that sounds simple. So, you quickly blurt out your answer. That is when the trouble starts. What you thought was simple and easy isn’t really so simple. In fact, it is a trap and you just walked right into the middle of it.

Life can be that way sometimes. We try to see ahead but sometimes we just don’t see the problem and before we know it we have walked off head long into it and find ourselves in over our heads.

This could have happened to Jesus in our lesson today. The Pharisees were trying to find a way to trap him and they think they have what they are looking for with a seemingly simple question. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor or not?”

To our modern ear we hear the question and don’t think much about it. We are used to paying taxes. We may not like it but we are used to it. And, from a secular perspective, without question it is lawful. So, Jesus should just go ahead and say “yes” and that would be the end of it.

Well, not so fast. The Romans believed the emperor to be a god. So, to pay taxes to the emperor, many Jews saw, including the Pharisees as paying tribute to a false god. By that logic, paying taxes to the emperor would not be a lawful act on the part of a good Jew.

Still, to not pay the tax? One could find yourself in serious hot water. What would happen between you and the IRS if you didn’t pay your taxes today?

So, here was Jesus’ dilemma. If he says, “Yes, it is lawful to pay taxes to the emperor,” he is a bad Jew. If he says, “No, you shouldn’t pay taxes to the emperor,” he is a subversive to the state and could have some very real consequences to those decisions.

Things are not always as simple as a quick glance might lead us to think. If we react to quickly we can find ourselves in deep trouble. Sometimes we need to first, stop and take a step back. We need to think through what we are about to do and only then see if we can find a solution.

That is what Jesus did. But, more on that to come over the next few days.

What do you do that allows you to walk into someone’s word trap?

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Joy and Thankfulness,
Keith

Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved

Author:

"The Pastor Ponders" is my attempt to share some of my thoughts. I often share what I am thinking with my dog "Bishop," but he keeps his thoughts to himself. He will even go to sleep sometimes while I am sharing my thoughts with him. The truth is, if it doesn't involve getting his ears scratched, his belly rubbed or some kind of treat, he really doesn't care. I will say this for him, he never argues with me or tells me I am wrong. So, I decided to share some of my thoughts with whoever might come across this blog in their ramblings around the Internet. Bishop and I live in Sweeny, Texas where I am the pastor of First United Methodist Church. I have served here for the past two years. For the past 27 years I have served United Methodist congregations throughout East Texas including rural Madison County (Elwood UMC), Lovelady (First UMC) and Kennard (Center Hill UMC), Canton (First UMC), rural Smith County (Mt. Sylvan UMC and Union Chapel UMC), Grapeland (First UMC), Tyler (Pleasant Retreat UMC), Santa Fe (Aldersgate UMC), Freeport (First UMC) and Oyster Creek (Oyster Creek UMC), Diboll (First UMC), and now Sweeny (First UMC). My wife Cindy and I have been married for over 40 years. We have two grown sons. Wayne and his wife Nikki and all our grandsons (Kaleb, Noah, and Jaxon) live in Southern California. Christopher and his wife Morgan and both our granddaughters (Jenna and Natalie) live in Tyler Texas. I enjoy preaching and all aspects of preaching from research to writing to the actual preaching event. I also love writing, reading, playing the guitar as well as a bit of drawing. I have spent quite a bit of time over the past two years working with paracord on various projects, mostly prayer ropes I usually give away. I sing bass with a local barbershop chorus called The Coastalaires. I have also recently begun doing a little wood carving. I also enjoy playing with Bishop, something he likes a great deal better than listening to my thoughts. I hold an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Business Data Processing, specializing in Microcomputers from San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, a Bachelor of Science in Political Science with a minor in History from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX, a Master of Divinity from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and a Doctor of Ministry from Carolina University of Theology. When I was a student at Carolina, the school was in Iron Station North Carolina. They have since relocated to Manassas Virginia (Yeah, go figure, a school named Carolina geographically in Virginia). This blog is mostly devotional writing, but there are other things here too. Just about every week I will either post my sermon manuscript or a video of the worship service. On occasion, I will post something I see in society. Occasionally I write a short story, a poem, or a song and will post it here too. I will say this, my motivations for writing this blog are really selfish. I write it to get what I am thinking out of my head and onto something a bit more permanent. They say, after all, once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Still, I hope you enjoy reading it. And, should you desire, you can one-up Bishop and actually tell me what you think. Who knows, it might generate a bit of discussion between you and me and anyone else who might make their way here. With Joy and Thankfulness, Keith Sweeny, Texas May 2018

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