Mark 12:13-17

Read Mark 12:13-17
How many animals did Moses put on the ark? Take your time, think about the question! Got the answer? It’s zero. Moses didn’t put any animals on the ark, Noah did! That question is designed to trip you up. This can be kind of fun in a lighthearted way, but we can also use this same tactic to make someone look pretty foolish. This is what the Pharisees and Herodians were trying to do to Jesus.
No one has ever enjoyed paying taxes and certainly it was the same in Jesus’ day. In fact, tax collectors are listed with some of the worst “sinners” in the middle east culture. We can talk all day about how taxes are used for infrastructure, roads, safety and a whole host of other things, but it doesn’t make them easy to pay. This was also the sentiment of religious leaders and politicians who were attempting to trap Jesus in today’s passage. If Jesus were to say ‘yes, you should pay taxes’, he would lose favor with the people, and if he were to say ‘no, you shouldn’t pay taxes’ he’d be in trouble with the Roman Empire. They were trying to trick him.
Jesus wasn’t going to be led into their scheme. Instead, he simply asks for a coin and says, ‘Whose face is this?”’ The answer was simple, Caesar’s. And Jesus replies ‘Give to Caesar what is his and God what is God’s.’ This was an incredibly discerning answer to a question, their trick question.
While one moral of this story might be, paying taxes is a biblical thing to do, that would be true, but let’s want to focus on Jesus’ discernment. We notice a few things we can glean here from Jesus. First, Jesus isn’t shaken by their flattery of his integrity as his discernment could see through vain flattery. Second, Jesus knew their hypocrisy, that they weren’t really seeking an honest answer to the question, they were trying to trip him up and Jesus saw through that. Third, Jesus knew his answer would be made public. Word would quickly spread, and the Pharisees would bring witnesses to testify that Jesus had spoken out against Rome.
Discernment is something that we desperately need as we navigate the world around us. We have an overload of input, especially in this age of technology. It takes discernment to know who to listen to. We can grow our discernment by praying and asking God for wisdom (James 1:5). We can also learn from others and grow in our discernment. I think the best way we learn judgement and wisdom is through the process of acting and failing over time. There’s no better teacher than experience! God wants us to be discerning, not to be swayed by every wind of teaching we hear, but to take it in, filter it through Scripture and the Gospel to see what God wants us to learn.
David Flug | Community Life Pastor

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