Leadership Focus: Discernment
Matthew 22: 15-22 (NRSV)
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” 21 They answered, “The emperor’s.” Then he said to them, “Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.
How Jewish of Jesus to answer a question with a question! He had the discernment to see behind the question about taxation, “knowing their evil intent” to trap him. With a toss of a coin he leaves us with a riddle that rolls down the centuries. His response has informed theologies of church and state, co-existing like two sides of the one coin, or in a conflict of competing allegiances, leading to civil disobedience, and even martyrdom.
Some suggest Jesus is making a subtle contrast between the image of Caesar on the coin, and the image of God in us. Let Caesar have his little piece of metal, but let God have all that you have been created to be.
No excuses here for avoiding or evading paying our taxes!
But as people suffer financially our Christian response begins by seeing every person made in God’s image. Timely leadership will discern how we might work with the powers that be for the Christian good of the nation, and to discern when we must stand up for those who are being left out, left behind or broken by systems that focus on statistics rather than souls.
Jesus, our Wisdom,
When hard decisions paralyse us
Grant us the discernment
To see beneath the surface
To recognise the core choices
That will unlock our actions.
Jesus, our Truth,
Keep us honest in our financial dealings.
May we be good citizens who seek the good of others.
Save us from the cowardice that settles for false peace.
Give us the discernment
To confront evil disguised in innocence.
Jesus, our Saviour,
Dust down your image within us
For we are not our own,
We have been bought at great price.
Give us the discernment
To give back to God today
what is already God’s gift to us. AMEN