Gospel Message & Recording
In the Gospel Reading today Peter is walking to Capernaum. While on his way he encounters some tax collector who asked him, ‘does your Master pay the temple tax.’ Hesitant to say “no,” or fearful that he would get his Master in trouble (at least I assume), he says, “yes.” When Peter came into the house where Jesus was staying, Jesus had foreknowledge of his conversation said, “From who do the kings of the earth take their tax? From their sons or strangers.” Peter replied, “strangers.” It is here that the passage becomes interesting and where I want to make my thesis. Jesus replies to Peter, “The sons are free. Nevertheless, so that we don’t offend, go out and catch a fish and in its mouth, you will find a coin. Give that coin as a payment for you and for me.” Jesus clearly states that he does not have to pay the tax, based on his analogy. In other words, he would be in the “right” not to pay. But because he did not want to “offend” anyone, he pays the tax anyway. What we see here, or rather what Jesus demonstrates is the following: it’s not always about “being right”. Some life situation requires us to be “smart”. Meaning, you could be right on a certain issue, maybe it’s politics, religion, a family situation, or a parish disagreement. Whatever it might be, we are called to be “smart” about how we go about expressing our “right.” We might have to review the situation and consider the consequence, short and long-term if we react and want to be in the “right” immediately. We have to look at the “bigger picture” and decide what works best for the “now” so that we accomplish the bigger goal. A very influential person once told me that it is not always what is in the heart that matters; you have to be conscious of what is on the outside as well. In other words, Jesus would have been in the “right” not to have paid the tax because in his heart he is in the “right” place; however because he realized that not paying the tax would lead to unnecessary problems, he went and paid it.
I must state that in this context, not offending someone is tied specifically to the process of how we accomplish a certain goal. Of course, the truth that Christ was preaching and teaching was in fact offensive. People were offended repeatedly by Christ’s teaching and actions. So the point here is: the Gospel will offend; the truth will offend because that is the greater goal. In terms of the minor issues that we deal with in getting to that goal, Christ stresses caution, and here in this context of the Gospel, restraint.
I know this a greyish idea but let me see if can elucidate this better by way of one example:
We are always, in some way or the other, disagreeing with another person’s point of view, either in conversation or social media. We have a tendency to want to be “right.” And we will, in some cases, compromise our emotional restraint to do so. Restraint and candor when speaking to someone which involves disagreement or difference of opinion (Disagreement=husband and wife disagree on how the money should be spent. Difference of opinion=Coke is better than Pepsi) have almost but vanished because of the political environment of our time. This has spilled over into the mainstream culture. As Christians, we should reject it. The ability to control our negative attitudes and practice restraint in our conversation and disagreements is something that we all must do; because even if someone has a disagreement or difference of opinion, we have to respect them as human beings. Using language that is belittling and offensive should not be the practice of a Christian. Negative attitudes come from the need to be “right.” To somehow “win over” on someone else. Today we are forced to either be “left” or “right” on every issue…at every corner…all the time. But is that real life? This type of thinking only leads to strife and conflict. Understanding that we have to work together in unity despite our difference and disagreements allow a person or community to build each other up rather putting each other down. On the minor issues--as a country and community--let us act smarter and practice restraint, respect and above all love, as Christ teaches us in his Word.