Whose Image Is on Your Heart?
This gospel today is often interpreted along three lines all of which conveniently let us off the hook. Some say this passage supports the idea that in the Bible, God sanctions a sharp separation of church and politics and that things like taxes have no influence on our faith or our theological commitments. Others claim that this gospel demonstrates that religion is a matter of the heart - that Jesus is not concerned with what you do with your money. Still others connect this passage with a law and order perspective claiming that civil law (including taxation) is the law and our Christian duty is to support the government no matter what.
The truth is that all three of these interpretations are seriously flawed and I am not going to let you off the hook today. We need develop some background on taxation and the relationship of religious institutions, the life of faith and the very important question of whose image is on your heart?
Ben Franklin famously observed once that the only things certain in life are death and taxes. I served a church in Maryland that was founded before Ben Franklin was born. As one of the 32 ''Royal Charter'' churches founded by William and Mary, St. Anne's and the rest of the Maryland Church of England parishes were initially funded by an annual 15 pounds of tobacco tax levied by the crown to support the churches he established in the colonies. History records that the members of the parish absolutely hated paying that particular tax and they often took measures to circumvent it.
Going back even earlier, you might have some things in common with Jews in first century Palestine. Like us today, they paid several different taxes. Some taxes were religious and some were civil. We heard the story of the widow's mite about paying the temple tax. There are numerous references in the Bible to land taxes and of course we know that Matthew was a tax collector for customs taxes ...
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