Pentecost +23 – Year A
Flattery is an excellent entrapment process. It works in both directions. Flatterers become less than themselves, knowing all along that they are untrue. Flatterees becomes more than themselves, ready to stumble, top heavy, with their head bigger than their britches.
The appropriate use of taxes continues to be on of those problematic issues. We can't live with them when they are separated from the commonwealth and we can't live without them as long as we are in community.
Taxes reveal our balance or imbalance between an individual's responsibility for themselves and a community's responsibility for those not up to that task and those infrastructure matters that benefit all.
So, what is a religious obligation to participate in a community beyond said religious' tenets?
Do you use state money? The state does have a claim on it. Charity, helpfulness, love, care, neighbor, widow and child, also have a claim on it for they have a claim on every part of my life, our lives.
This is not a division between G*D and Emperor, it is a question of proportion. G*D works through Emperors as well as against them and so questions of discernment are always in order. Are you going to keep your taxes to a minimum? Voluntarily double them? Use them as a tool of resistance?
The Pharisees left too early and easily. Their amazement protected them from a reconsideration of their own question, showing that starting with flattery keeps learning at bay. They'll be back.