Brian’s Reflection: Monday, October 17, 2011
Give therefore to the emperor the things that are
the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's.
Matthew 22 [ the Gospel reading for October 16, RCL ]
[ You can see the full text at: http://www.lectionarypage.net/YearA_RCL/Pentecost/AProp24_RCL.html ]
In the version of the Gospel story called “Matthew”, this encounter is turned, as is often the case in “Matthew”, into a put-down of the corrupt Jewish religious power structure. And it’s brilliant, for that! What a zinger; a spiritual Taser ! One of the best comebacks in the Gospel. But of course, that version is an attempt of the early 2nd C Christian “Matthew” community to politicize the story.
One could, however, look at it this way – a little simplistic though it may be: inside every human being are set two thrones. On one sits “the Emperor”, on the other “God”. Think of “God” as representing everything that is eminently worthy of being a person made in the image of Love, and think of “the Emperor” as representing choices which renounce Love and everything that Love includes in the Christian understanding of Love/God.
Jesus is simply saying that every human life is lived in the context of community, politics, social responsibility, relationship to authority, etc. But that we must be clear of the heart out of which we live and make our decisions and take action. Jesus said the same thing in another lovely image when He said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If we are not clear, everything else will go askew ….. and the scheming, mean-spirited Pharisees represent the warped human heart.
As I look back on my Life, I see the Wisdom of Jesus’ teaching. Behind every unloving act and its consequences lies a decision made in collusion with “the Emperor”. And the “Empress” always exacts her “tax” ….. immediately or somewhere long down the road.
It’s a wise thing to remember those two thrones, and to be attentive to whom we give our first allegiance.