Speaking for Jesus with a Texas Twang

Pop quiz!

Please fill in the blanks for this Biblical verse (big clue: it’s the same word twice):

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘Give to _________ the things that are _________, and give to God that things that are God’s.’” (It’s Luke 20:25, but do you really need to look it up?)

Next ridiculously obvious clue: a coin was shown to Jesus just before those words were spoken. I have a feeling you’ll get the correct answer. It’s a familiar passage and, well, if you’re reading this, I’m confident you’re a smart person!

The verse opening this slice of the third Gospel is equally satisfying and foreboding. Luke 20:20 noted, “So they watched him and sent spies who pretended to be honest, in order to trap him in what he said . . .”

Nasty! Sneaky! Dastardly! How 21st century!

For me, the satisfaction comes from the “spies” getting their comeuppance. This is the scene where those who fear Jesus seek to trap him by asking about taxes. Taxes were controversial then, just as now. Maybe what Jesus said would get him in trouble with 1) Caesar or 2) the Roman Empire’s version of the IRS. (Oops, now I’ve helped you with the quiz above!). But nimble Jesus sidesteps their trap. I imagine the spies with their mouths open and their eyes glazed over when Jesus turns the table with his question. And I also imagine, with a little sleight-of-hand, that Jesus figured out how to pocket their sample coin and give it to the poor.

It’s also a foreboding passage. At this stage of Jesus’ journey, his list of enemies has grown. The powerful were nervous. The insiders’ schemes increasingly deadly. Continue reading →