God has place this wonderful creation in our hands. As U2 sings, "It's a beautiful day, don't let it slip away." We have this one life to live on this beautiful planet so enjoy these reflections on God, faith, life, and music. "After the flood all of the colors came out. It's a beautiful day."

Monday, May 12, 2014

Taxes and Discipleship

 The Call to Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark a prayer journey, Day 55

Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’ But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.’ And they brought one. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ And they were utterly amazed at him.                                                                                                                                           Mark 12:13-17
       What is our relationship toward the government and taxation supposed to be? Does it make a difference that we are followers of Jesus? Should it make a difference that we are to be kingdom inhabitants?  
       Today's question to challenge Jesus is about whether we should pay taxes to Caesar. So the religious folk accompanied by political folk have come to set Jesus up with a hypothetical question. They begin by saying we know what you say is true and that you don't care about status. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar? So in essence they are asking Jesus to incite insurrection, so they can then arrest him as a political revolutionary. They are asking him to say that the colonizer (Rome) does not have the right to collect taxes for they are not legitimate. Notice they didn't ask him about local government taxes.
       So Jesus first challenges their asking the question to trap them in an arrestable offense. Jesus asks them to bring him a coin. He takes the coin and asks, "whose likeness and inscription is this?" They answer, "Caesar's." Jesus then tells them, "render unto Caesar, what is Caesars and to God the things that are God's. So by his words, Jesus could mean the coin is Rome's. But if the "Earth is the Lord's and all that's in it." Then everything is God's. So all we have, all we do belongs to God. This could be a challenge to the colonizers oppressive taxes and government.
      So how are we to apply this to our lives. I would not recommend, not paying taxes because you end up with garnished wages and/or in jail. Because Jesus is presenting us with a larger critique of society, a different way to live; we are to challenge those points in our common life where people are being hurt or unable to thrive. So would God look at our tax system and ask what is fair and just? Does the money you pay to the government prevent you from having enough to eat,having healthcare, a roof over your head, heat, electricity? Who benefits from the tax code, who gets the most breaks? If it is not fair or just then we should work to make it fair and just. Does the money collected by the government reflect God's priorities? Is the budget used to feed the hungry? Cloth the naked? Heal the sick? Does the budget take care of the widows and orphans?  Does the budget fight evil (evil as God sees it, not humanity)? Does the budget work to set prisoners free? (This has a lot of implications for mandatory sentencing, 3 strikes your out, harsh drug laws, death penalty, Guantanamo Bay)? So in your political life, do you put God and God's dream for the world at the center or do bow to Caesar?  

Prayer Practice:
Litany for the Federal Budget
By Rev. Mari Castellanos, federal budget

Holy One, we thank you for gathering us this day as your people, women and men committed to loving you in one another. We thank you for entrusting us with the care of your precious creation and for calling us to be doers of justice and makers of peace. We seek your grace to be the church you call us to be, even as we acknowledge our frequent failure to live into that call.

Your people suffer dear God. In a world you created with abundant food sources, people go hungry. The waters you called into being are diverted for uses you never intended and the poor of the earth go thirsty. Your people suffer and call out to you. Hear the cry of the poor Oh God!

In this land of plenty many live in scarcity. Countless have no work and many of those who do, still live with anxiety and need. We lay before you their concerns as we pray for those who are able to address them. Hear the cry of the poor Oh God!

We pray for those who have power; may they have compassion as well.
The Lord hears the cry of the poor; blessed be the Lord.

We lift up to you our lawmakers; may they hold your law in their hearts.
The Lord hears the cry of the poor; blessed be the Lord.

We commend to you those who have influence; may they use it on behalf of those who feel forsaken.
The Lord hears the cry of the poor; blessed be the Lord.

 For our sisters and brothers who hunger for bread and justice, we ask the fullness of your mercy and pledge our best efforts to obtain the fullness of justice.
The Lord hears the cry of the poor; blessed be the Lord.

For the poor of the earth who sustain our extravagance with their labor and whose environment we devastate with extractive industries and with our waste, may they be lifted out of poverty as we repent and make amends.
The Lord hears the cry of the poor; blessed be the Lord.

We surrender all of these concerns to you, Holy One, mindful of your mercy and of our responsibility. Amen.

Ball of Confusion by the Temptations

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