Friday, January 4, 2013

Jesus and the Fiscal Cliff

I'm so tired of the end-of-the-world style financial fear mongering by the politicians and the media! Reminds me of Y2K - remember that? I really believe most people weren't all that worked up by all the "fiscal cliff" looming disaster threats. Life goes on. The country goes on. The political debates go on. Sorry - I know I should take a political stance on all this economic mess, but I'm just tired of it all. Politics, taxes, and economics are nothing new. They were all around in Jesus' day. I don't think Jesus was too worried about a fiscal cliff. There are a couple of cliffs He had to deal with though. Both are in Luke chapter 4.

 The first one was right after His baptism, when He went into the desert where the devil tempted Him for 40 days. Satan took Jesus to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say,‘He will order his angels to protect and guard you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the Lord your God.’” (Luke 4:9-12). ....As you can see, Jesus was victorious and never gave in to any of the devil's schemes.

The other cliff episode from Luke 4 involves the time Jesus was teaching in the synagogue. Basically he was implying that He was a prophet similar to Isaiah the prophet. "When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious. Jumping up, they mobbed him and forced him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push him over the cliff, but he passed right through the crowd and went on his way." (Luke 4:28-30). ....Like they could really push Jesus off a cliff - NOT!

The above two cliffs that Jesus dealt with were cliffs, but not 'fiscal cliffs'. However, there were fiscal issues that Jesus dealt with. By fiscal, I mean dealings with government taxes and finances. In the scripture below, Jesus answers the question, it right to pay taxes?

Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”  “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” (Matthew 22:15-21)

Jesus and his disciples were approached by the tax collectors to pay a temple tax. The money to pay the tax was provided in a very interesting way (must be nice).

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”  “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?”  “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.” (Matthew 17:24-27)

Tax collectors back then were disreputable. They were known for collecting not only the tax that was due, but also some extra for themselves. John the Baptist commented on this.
Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?” He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.” “What should we do?” asked some soldiers. John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:12-14)

Jesus didn't avoid tax collectors, though. He even picked one as His own disciple, one of the 12 apostles! - Matthew.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (Matthew 9:9-10)

And I'm sure you remember Zaccheus, the wealthy, chief tax collector who wanted to see Jesus. Because he was short, Zaccheus had to climb up a tree to get a glimpse of Jesus. But Jesus spotted him, and said, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.’” But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:5-8) ......Looks like even tax collectors can have a change of heart when they meet Jesus!

So as far as taxes go, remember that Jesus had to deal with all that mess too. That includes finances and tax collectors. And when it's time to pay your taxes, don't feel alone. There's nothing new under the sun!

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