This week’s Gospel lesson, Matthew 22:15-22, recounts a question about taxes both ancient and contemporary. Both Pharisees and Herodians, a strange collusion, plot to entrap Jesus with this query: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” A form of this question is circulating in this frenzied political season, i.e., “Is it patriotic to pay taxes or not?” A simple yes or no answer was not sufficient for Jesus, nor is it for us. As persons of faith we live in a world that requires loyalties that are often in tension—the political context in which we live and the reign of God. Taxes allow us to receive significant benefits of citizenship; we receive protection, educational opportunities, and the infrastructures that sustain life.
Taxes are also a means of providing services to those whose life circumstances require assistance. This is where the lines are usually drawn, and we judge one another’s patriotism by personal and social priorities. Paying taxes to