Advent Day 5

THE READINGS

Psalm 18 · 1 Thess. 3:1-13

Isaiah 2:12-22

12 For the Lord of hosts has a day
    against all that is proud and lofty,
    against all that is lifted up and high;
13 against all the cedars of Lebanon,
    lofty and lifted up;
    and against all the oaks of Bashan;
14 against all the high mountains,
    and against all the lofty hills;
15 against every high tower,
    and against every fortified wall;
16 against all the ships of Tarshish,
    and against all the beautiful craft.
17 The haughtiness of people shall be humbled,
    and the pride of everyone shall be brought low;
    and the Lord alone will be exalted on that day.
18 The idols shall utterly pass away.
19 Enter the caves of the rocks
    and the holes of the ground,
from the terror of the Lord,
    and from the glory of his majesty,
    when he rises to terrify the earth.
20 On that day people will throw away
    to the moles and to the bats
their idols of silver and their idols of gold,
    which they made for themselves to worship,
21 to enter the caverns of the rocks
    and the clefts in the crags,
from the terror of the Lord,
    and from the glory of his majesty,
    when he rises to terrify the earth.
22 Turn away from mortals,
    who have only breath in their nostrils,
    for of what account are they?

Luke 20:19-26

19 When the scribes and chief priests realized that he had told this parable against them, they wanted to lay hands on him at that very hour, but they feared the people.

20 So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him by what he said, so as to hand him over to the jurisdiction and authority of the governor. 21 So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you are right in what you say and teach, and you show deference to no one, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. 22 Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?” 23 But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?” They said, “The emperor’s.” 25 He said to them, “Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 26 And they were not able in the presence of the people to trap him by what he said; and being amazed by his answer, they became silent.

MEDITATION

In this story, the religious leaders think they have set the perfect trap for Jesus. They ask him, “Should we pay our taxes to Caesar?” On the one hand, they speak for the Jewish people who were forced to pay taxes to the Roman Empire but did not receive the benefits of citizenship. If Jesus confirmed that Jews should pay Caesar’s tax, his own people would have been angry and felt betrayed. But if Jesus tells the people not to pay taxes, these spies can report him to the Romans for encouraging people to violate the Empire’s laws. It’s a no-win situation.

But Jesus sees the trap coming. He has a chance to expose the spies’ deceitfulness in front of everybody; or just ignore their question. Instead, he actually gives a truthful answer to their dishonest question. Jesus asks the questioner for a coin, and holding it up to the crowd, points to Caesar’s face imprinted on the piece of metal. The owner of that coin probably worked hard for it. She probably felt like we do towards money we earn: it belongs to us and we can decide how to spend it. But the question is not only about our money. Jesus reminds the crowd that God is concerned with all aspects of our lives. It is easy to forget where the gifts of life come from. What we do with our money is important, but we can only honor God with our resources when we have given God our full obedience, our trust, and our love. Caesar creates currency, but God has created all of life. Do you live as if your life belonged to God?

Luke tells us that the crowds were astonished by Jesus’ answer. When Jesus spoke the truth, it shattered their expectations. When we ask God for guidance or provision, we often tell God how we’d like God to answer our prayer. But this story reminds us that God’s truth will surprise us—we may get an answer we’re not expecting. This year, I (Jair) have been praying for good grades. God hasn’t magically written “A”s on all of my papers; but he has given me perseverance to work really hard. I have tried to obey God by giving my best in school, and have found that I can trust him to help me get the grades I need! We can be thankful that we do not have to trust in our money or in the government to take care of us. When we give our lives to God, he provides.

-Brendan Dry and Jair Solis

PRAYER

What prayers might you offer to God in response to what you have read?

Jon Ziegler