Sunday, March 04, 2007

Give Caesar what's Caesar's

Today's New Testament reading has some people trying to trap Jesus in his words. They ask him whether it's OK to pay the hated tax or not. You see, if he says, "Yes, pay it," they'll cast him as a Roman collaborateur, but if he says, "Don't," then they'll have the Romans arrest him. He sees through their hypocricy, though, and asks them for a coin. (Someone has pointed out that even for this illustration he had to borrow a coin.)
16They brought the coin, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?"

"Caesar's," they replied.

17Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's."

And they were amazed at him.
Mark 12.16-17
What does that mean? OK, this just came to me now: What is Caesar's? Taxes. Obedience to the law.

What's God's? Everything else? Of course, but in particular, what's that verse say? "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." So my heart, soul, mind, and strength are God's, and I should give him that. H'm...

We had a friend over for dinner the other night, and he told us of his experience investing in stocks. Now not everyone is like this, but when he related his experience, I knew that I was! You buy some shares of stock XYZ at, say, $40, using an online broker. E*Trade, Ameritrade, one of those.

A few hours or a few minutes later, you check the price. Whoa! Up a whole point! You feel smart. Or it's down, and you feel dumb, or sad, or unlucky. The next day, if you haven't sold it already, you check it a few times (or a few dozen times) more. When it's up, you're happy; when it's down, you're sad. You think about it, you worry about it, OK, maybe you pray about it.

But part of your heart has gone into the market, into the price of that stock.

Some people can invest and forget it; we put some money into a few stocks and had the experience that our friend did. Last year we got out of that and turned over management to a financial advisor. Since it's now tax time, I looked over the data for "Schedule D" and you know what? We actually "made" a little money. One stock made $3000 and two others lost $1000 apiece, something like that. It was not worth the time and energy invested.

I'm glad we're out of it. So that's one distraction eliminated, or at least reduced. Not a sure cure to total devotion to God, but it removed a pot-hole in the road.

So we don't watch the market nearly so closely, and our hearts are at peace, less tied up in the financial pages, and, we hope, more fully His.

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