It doesn’t take much to entrap some of us. The obverse is that it doesn’t take much for some of us to overestimate our ability to trap another.
The Pharisees fell into the second category. The Pharisees understood themselves to be so much in the right that they could send some surrogates to practice on Jesus.
And so it came to pass that students set out to trap Jesus. They used a standard practice of beginning with flattery. It is one of the temptation techniques that has proven successful over time. A little flattery turns the head, distracts. It doesn’t take much loss of focus before we trap ourself.
“You are so sincere. You are surely in touch with the ways of G*D. You are as truthful as the day is long and filled with integrity from top to bottom.”[Any of these catch you?]
And then the innocent question disingenuously put as an easy choice.
“We’re confused, can we pay taxes to the emperor or not?”
When we are awake we can catch the simple questions of life and see beyond them and respond with the complexity they deserve - with another question.
“Ah,” says Jesus, “what do you mean by ‘pay taxes’?”
Rather than think about the question, the stand-ins thought the question too easy and so quickly responded, “Should those who support Mosaic Law support Caesar?”
“Hmmm,” thought Jesus aloud, “Seems like there are many claims of authority. Each claims a right to body, mind, spirit, and resources. After you have sorted out the authorities, you can respond to each appropriately.”
“Oh,” said the pharisaical delegation.
And so it was that the Pharisees were disappointed and waited to see how the Sadducees fared with their trap.
[Note: economic questions are often the ones that trip us up. It is so easy to fear losing whatever perk we have and thus elevate the current socio-political system into that of equivalence to a universal human need. The Occupy Wall Street events cropping up reveal that we are at a time of seeing behind the Ozian curtain of a silent plutocracy we set in place by not being able to critique capitalism and democracy. This duo has lost its rhythm to the point of democracy no longer being able to offset capitalism’s excesses.
As we enter our equivalent of the disjuncture of economic and political structures at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, a radical critique of our economic, political, and religious decision-making is painfully overdue and necessary.
To think we can find an easy way out of facing basic common good values is disingenuous. Unfortunately we have no political process readily at hand to assist us to bring an economic system into a constructive conversation with our spiritual/communal needs.
Prophets don’t need to know what the next rebalancing is going to look like, only that every aspect of our current life has been unbalanced in its own arena and in relationship to every other aspect. This is why they call us back to issues of the common good - not that there is only one way to express that, but without having this background revealed we will simply ping-pong from one foreground extreme to another without learning anything.
This may be the most important pericope of the year and well worth dealing with every week for another year.]