Taxing Query — Grand Canyon Synod of the ELCA

by Drew Tucker, Columbus, OH

Heat-up Query

Consider one thing that impacts everybody, that’s typically unpopular, and that’s obligatory for dwelling in a society. Share with a gaggle or a trusted good friend how you’re feeling about that factor that you simply’ve named.

Taxing Query

Due to the current risk of a authorities shutdown, averted by a last-minute stopgap funding bill that President Biden signed into legislation on September thirtieth, 2023, I’ve been doing loads of serious about how we fund dwelling in our shared society. From infrastructure like roads and utilities to folks like first responders and postal employees, our taxes pay for a lot of providers we make the most of ceaselessly with out ever having to consider it. Due to taxes, I’ve by no means needed to construct a bridge to cross a river or put out a hearth at my neighbor’s home or pay for catastrophe aid after a hurricane. In that method, I’m grateful for taxes.

However  I’m conscious that I’ll by no means even see about 20% of my revenue as a result of it goes on to federal, state, and native governments. After I’m being egocentric, I take into consideration the holidays I may take or how way more rapidly I may afford a brand new automotive if a lot of the cash I earned didn’t disappear into the vacuum of presidency tolls. And because the current specter of a authorities shutdown revealed, even once we pay our taxes, that doesn’t imply that the issues we’d like are essentially assured!

In the end, I do know that taxes are obligatory as a result of they assist us to attach with each other.  They supply assist for individuals who don’t have the identical entry to assets that I’ve and guarantee we will climate the literal and metaphorical storms that face our nation. So I suppose as we speak’s information is that this: taxes are sophisticated.

Belief me, I do know that it’s no newsflash that taxes are sophisticated. Certainly, all through my life, I’ve vacillated from pondering all of us pay an excessive amount of in taxes, pondering all of us pay too little in taxes, and pondering some folks ought to pay extra taxes than they do whereas others ought to pay much less. Amidst all that confusion and imperfection, which is commonly what makes taxes so unpopular, it’s clear that taxes have an effect on everybody as a result of most pay them and all profit from them. To reside in a society the place we share each other’s burdens, taxes are obligatory.

Dialogue Questions

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

Isaiah 45:1-7

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Matthew 22:15-22

(Textual content hyperlinks are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is just not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You could find the calendar of readings for 12 months A at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and perception, verify the weekly comedian Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

How a lot we pay in taxes and to whom we must always pay our taxes isn’t a brand new query. Ben Franklin as soon as mentioned that “nothing is definite however loss of life and taxes,” a phrase that’s advanced into a preferred aphorism for folks of all political persuasions. Jesus’ ministry preceded Franklin’s politics by almost 1,800 years, however as we see in as we speak’s Gospel passage, Jesus additionally took on the query of taxes.

The Pharisees didn’t essentially hate taxes in themselves, however as spiritual purists, they hated the thought of sending taxes to Rome and its Gentile allies. The Herodians, so named for his or her allegiance to King Herod and his descendants, accommodated with Rome and customarily supported the empire’s efforts, together with Roman taxes. In different phrases, this wasn’t an argument about whether or not taxes ought to exist; nobody on this passage is claiming that taxation is theft.

As an alternative, the query is to whom we must always pay taxes, about who has the suitable authority to demand taxes. Whereas the Pharisees and Herodians disagreed on who had the authority to demand taxes, they agreed on one factor: Jesus was harmful to their energy. In asking whether or not to pay the imperial tax, they tried to border Jesus both as a insurgent to the empire or a traitor to the Jewish folks.

Moderately than take sides, Jesus takes this as a instructing alternative about generosity and identification. The cash in circulation, with Caesar’s picture, carried worth as a result of the Empire mentioned so. The identical is true for cash as we speak. When Jesus says, “give due to this fact to Caesar the issues which can be Caesar’s and to God the issues which can be God’s” (v. 21), he’s subtly reminding his listeners that, simply because the coin’s carry Caesar’s picture, so too folks carry God’s picture.

To this Hebrew viewers, who would all be fairly conversant in the Torah, the thought of a picture stamped on a coin would deeply resonate with the divine picture God offers to folks of their sacred creation tales. Jesus encourages his followers to acknowledge we’ve a spot in a political society, at the same time as we’ve an final allegiance to God.

The Lutheran custom provides a layer of reflection to this when it acknowledges that God doesn’t completely work by means of the church, but additionally by means of the federal government. This theology of Two Realms (typically referred to as Two Kingdoms, although that wasn’t Luther’s language) emphasizes that the political or secular realm serves a function in God’s creation.  Ideally, it ensures that civic life promotes the great of all. Giving ourselves to God doesn’t imply we’ve to keep away from paying our taxes.  We reside in two realms concurrently; God is in the end in charge of each. We give ourselves to God in lives lived with grace and we share our wealth with Caesar (or Uncle Sam) as a result of God is at work in first responders who supply care in pure disasters. God is at work in utilities that present heat to outlive the chilly climate.

Dialogue Questions

  • Why do you suppose taxes have been so complicated and polarizing for 1000’s of years?

  • Share a method you may render to God what’s God’s that makes a optimistic influence in your neighbors.

  • Share one of many methods you discover God at work by means of political or civil organizations outdoors of the church.

Exercise Strategies

  • God’s Picture Affirmations – Sit in a circle and have one chair within the heart. Take turns having members of the group sit within the center seat and have each individual in attendance share a method that they see God energetic in that individual. Emphasize that the picture of God is just not essentially a bodily trait previous to starting the exercise. You too can select to put in writing everybody’s title on paper baggage, have contributors write their responses, after which deposit them within the baggage to make sure contributors depart with a continuing reminder of God’s work by means of their lives.

  • BiblOpoly – Sure, this is a real thing, and sure, it is best to play it. To win, slightly than defeat your fellow gamers, you’re employed to help them in succeeding as effectively. It may possibly assist gamers expertise the advantages of rendering to Caesar and rendering to God. With the current resurgence in reputation of tabletop video games, contemplate extra broadly how you should utilize these as instruments to show and apply Christian values and biblical teachings.

  • Making Change – Get a sampling of all varieties of cash and have everybody select one at random. Group folks by the coin they selected and problem them to determine whose picture is stamped the coin and share as a lot data as they’ll concerning the individual. To raise the problem, do one spherical with out their telephones and one other permitting them to make the most of the web. Use this exercise as a possibility to debate why we rejoice sure folks, what values they’re meant to characterize, and what values we supply as folks stamped with God’s picture.

Closing Prayer

Beneficiant God, remind us that your work is just not restricted to the church. Encourage us to present generously to your work in all arenas of life, even when we aren’t in charge of the result. Remind us that you’re at work in all realms of life, and that in these realms you search justice for all, peace for all, abundance for all. Floor us within the witness of Jesus and empower us to present all of ourselves to you, whose picture we bear. Amen.

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