A Just Balance

Today’s Reading: Matthew 17

At the end of Matthew chapter 17 something very interesting to happens. At least interesting to me, I hope you will find it interesting and profitable too. It starts when “they that received tribute money” came to Peter to ask of Jesus “Doth not your master pay tribute?” (Matthew 17:24)

When Peter came to Jesus to inquire of him on this matter. Jesus spoke before Peter and asked him:

What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? (Matthew 17:25)

Peter answered “Of strangers.” That is, they tax not those of their own family but those outside their house.

Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:26)

Some think this was Jesus making it clear that because He was the Son of God the tax does not apply to Him. This is why some believe the tax matter was a temple tax and not a civic tax.

Jesus then said “notwithstanding”, which I take to mean some version of, even though I am not required too. Then Jesus said “lest we should offend them” and then proceeded to describe the precise manner in which they would procure the tribute money for payment.  

At first glance the phrase “lest we should offend them” could be taken as a reinforcing statement of what Jesus first said; “notwithstanding”. In this case the “them” would be referring to the tax collectors. Instead though, let us consider for a moment that the “them” was actually in reference to the strangers that Peter mentioned. If this were the case, I think the statement may be more linked to the manner in which they are procuring the payment and not a repetitive statement describing why they are in fact going to pay. After all Jesus just got done explaining why they did not need to. So, if it is in fact about how they are going to procure the payment, the question then became for me, why is this so important? For that answer I turn back to Jesus’s explanation, “Lest we should offend them.” And this is where it got so interesting to me. 

Here is what I think we may be seeing. Coming up with the money to pay the tax is certainly not a problem for Jesus. I think it is reasonable to say He could have done it in any number of ways. One thought is that he would simply lift His hand up to the sky and ask for it to be created. But the issue with creating is that it wouldn’t be fair.

Creating money in any system and increasing the money supply is simply stealing from those who hold money. It is debasing the currency, which basically means everyone else’s money would than be worth less. God pronounces this as a curse and judgement in Isaiah 1:22. Instead, I think Jesus in his sovereignty and absolute authority knew about a coin that no one had a claim to and commanded it brought to Peter. This way they would not offend anyone, or hurt anyone by decreasing the value of their coins, in paying the tax.

There is of course a strong possibility I am way off here. Perhaps reading too much into things. But on the other hand, perhaps this is why the manner in which they paid the tax was described in so much detail and why it was important for Jesus to break down who the groups involved in the tax were and how they all relate to each other. Perhaps it was to continue to lead us in the way we should go. To give us another example of God’s law applied to this world. For me, yet another reassurance that God is all knowing, all powerful, and above all. Praise God!

Here is a link to the scripture: Matthew 17:24-27

 

Cardinal Virtues: Justice

Virtue — even attempted virtue — brings light; indulgence brings fog.

-CS Lewis

Statue of Justice with sword and scales in front of a blue cloudy sky

Cardinal, in terms of virtue, I once thought a reference to the Catholic ordained.  It is not. Cardinal from the latin cardo, or hinge, like hinge on a door, seems to mean something more like important or critical or pivotal or to hinge on.

Justice, from the latin justus meaning uprightness. The nearest modern english fairness. We can hear it in the term righteousness. The Catholic Church teaches that this is the most important virtue and with good reason. The determination of right and wrong and then, of course, doing the right.  The knowledge of right and wrong.

The virtues are to be strived for.  Every bit closer we come, every bit more joyful we become.  The virtues seem to be concerned with others.  Not of self.  So much of what all the teachings are wrapped up in is the golden rule: treat others as you would have them treat you.  I find it interesting that this all hinges on how we treat ourselves.  Therein I suppose lies the mystery of the existence of God.

We all hold a distinct advantage in knowing that which is human, as we are, of course, human.  We all know that we ought to do so and so, yet we do not.  We all know when someone is being selfish; yet is it not just that which is the hardest to see in ourselves?  The hardest to admit perhaps.  Rationalizations abound of course, of course.  Still, I have come to believe that the brass tacks of the matter is this: we all know there exists a way we ought to act and we all know, if we admit it, that we ourselves, you and me, fall short.  The question then becomes where did this knowledge of the true way that seems to be within everyone us, this evidence of God, come from?

Perhaps the answer lies in the prophecy of Jeremiah:

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

-A takeaway from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Comparison and Jealousy

When you have drunk of it you forget forever all proprietorship in your own works.  You enjoy them just as if they were someone else’s: without pride and without modesty.

C.S. Lewis

Empty Dark Abstract Concrete Room Perspective Interior

Comparison. I am better. A deception at its core. And jealousy. They do not deserve. Both empty indeed.

To compare and say we are this or that as measured against another is an ignorant quest for happiness that we have all fallen to, I am afraid. One day it produces good feelings and the next the most horrible. At its core is a lie that we actually own something. That we or they are responsible for a good. When in truth it is all God.

We are a body. Hands and feet and eyes and ears. One day the hand is called up and it feels more useful than the foot. Tomorrow when the foot is needed — the hand feels less important. When sight is needed should the eyes count themselves better than the ears?  What then if it is dark tomorrow?

The truth is humility. Every useful thing we have is given to us anyways. As is our fellows. If you have a gift of generosity, then give generously in secret and thank God. If another has a gift, the truth is joy. It is most beautiful to see another made useful by God’s goodness.

Jealousy sets in when we do not trust the measure. We think an outcome not fair.  That the judge, the boss, the coach did not have all the information and so the decision was not correct. Unfair.

We are a body. If the head calls up the hand in combat and the foot feels a kick was needed the foot becomes jealous. Jealous and distracted. Less useful in fact. The hand and the foot and the arm and the leg answer to the head.

The truth is justice. Who is just? What is truth? I believe God is. And He will sort the deserved from the empty. We are to follow Him and that is that. He is faithful to follow and we will do well to trust in His judgement.

Comparison with jealousy is an ugly distracted and paralyzed way. How much better to be thankful, enjoy, and trust.

 

-A takeaway from The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.