The Least of These: Diaconical Taxation

 “And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'” — Matthew 25:40

A social system will always have gaps in it; spaces and borders that cannot totalise the landscape of human life and society — there will always be spaces and the people who occupy them that fall outside the borders we draw for our social space and that we care for. There will always be the other, the poor and the outcast. Jesus promised and prophesied as much. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t create a system…

Continue reading

Advertisements

Giving to God: Making Sense of Everything Else

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” — Matthew 22:15-21

What is yours? What is mine? These are the questions at the heart of paying taxes, of living in society, of being made in the image of God. In the previous post, I exhorted the paying of taxes, and the social goods that that accomplishes. But Jesus says more than that; he twists the Pharisees’ question back on to them. What does it mean to give what is God’s back to God?

Continue reading

Giving to Caesar: Making Sense of Taxation

“Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’” — Matthew 22:15-21

Pay your taxes. There, I said it. Not only that, but you should encourage your neighbours, your business partners, and multi-national corporations (those particularly) to pay their taxes. For an American living in Europe, I’ve come to appreciate the value of paying taxes. And sure, the system isn’t perfect, but it is a lot better than the other way around.

Continue reading

Meaning in Death

“To die, to sleep—
No more—and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.” — Hamlet
Continuing a recent theme, we must pause to question whether there is any meaning in death. Death — that closure of possibilities; Death — that last enemy to be defeated. Whether it is embraced in a stoicism or a philosophical release of the soul from the body (à la Socrates) or it is shuddered at and avoided (à la Hamlet), it is the inevitable end of humankind. It is experience throughout life in the deaths of others. Is it darkness? Can one die with dignity? Is avoiding death the purpose of health and modern medicine? These are just a few of the questions.

Continue reading

Death and Resurrection

icon

“Death has been swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?”– 1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Death as the closure of possibilities, death as the impossibility at the end of my experience, silences. All projects end, all desires fulfilled or otherwise cease, all hopes expire, all dreams fade into the ontological nothingness that is death. It is the last enemy, and in many ways, the only enemy. All threat, all power, is an invocation of the threat of death, all power is the calling forth of death into life. But what would it mean to call life into death?

Continue reading

Learning to Turn Aside

TT - Prince of Egypt

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, ‘I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.’ When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, ‘Moses, Moses!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’ Then he said, ‘Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ He said further, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. — Exodus 3:1-6

Where does our encounter with God begin? Where are the first traces of the divine felt? We can tread the same place or idea for years and years — until one day, our eyes and heart are open and they catch that glimmer, that spark, that surprise and God calls our name.

Continue reading

Scandal and Eastertide

Rembrandt’s depiction of the resurrection of Jesus.

“Believing in Christ’s resurrection…does not mean affirming a fact. It means being possessed by the life-giving Spirit and participating in the powers of the age to come.” — Jürgen Moltmann

The scandal of Christianity is a scandal of singularity. Such singularity that resists all universalisation, all reason, all genres and species of logic. Christianity departs from all ‘sacred logic’ that separates “the world” from “the divine” — the gods no longer live above, there is not an order of intelligible, immutable forms: God became flesh, and entered into the depths of that being, into death. God did this in a singular human history, in a singular human personality, in Jesus the Nazarene.

Continue reading