Who Gets What?
In the reading this week from the gospel of Matthew, we are confronted with the Pharisees who are attempting to trap Jesus in his own words. Jesus, however, constantly turns the tables on his attackers often leaving them speechless and the bystanders amazed.
In this week’s reading Jesus’ opponents finally raise the subject of taxes. Of course, taxes have never been very popular in human history, and life in the Holy Land under Roman military rule was no exception. The Romans heavily taxed their occupied territories, and typically the local ruling aristocracy used any method possible to extort money from the lower classes. This is why tax collectors are especially hated characters.
In our passage, it is the dynamics of Roman occupation that create the opportunity for this line of questioning: if Jesus responds that it is lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, he will be deemed to be sympathetic to the ruling class. So how will Jesus respond?