Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Paying Taxes

Isaiah 29:15-24; Mark 12:13-17 / Psalm 56:1-13

I. How Do Church and State Relate?

A. Some people look for ways to put the church in a bad like and in particular to make Christian doctrine unattractive. “And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.” (Mark 12:13)

1. Enemies of Christ, who hated each other, united to oppose Him. “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.” (Mark 3:6)

2. The struggle for self-centered living makes a single party of natural enemies. “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.” (Acts 23:8)

3. God’s enemies constantly seek to twist His word. “Then said they, Come, and let us devise devices against Jeremiah; for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, and let us smite him with the tongue, and let us not give heed to any of his words.” (Jeremiah 18:18)

B. The tormentors were oily but their objective was to alienate Jesus either from the populace or the government; the “tax question” was disingenuously formed. “And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? (Mark 12:14)

II. The Answer Demands Context for Clarification

A. Jesus turned the question so that it exposed the underlying hypocrisy. “Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.” (Mark 12:15)

B. The tormentors brought Jesus a Roman denarius—the most common coin of the era. “And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s.” (Mark 12:16) The Roman coin was stamped Tiberias Caesar, Divi Augusti Filius Augustus; that is, Tiberius Caesar, the August Son of the Divine Augustus.

C. By bringing a Roman coin the tormentors acknowledged their allegiance to Rome; it is significant that they did not bring Jewish coins. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” (Revelation 3:12)

III. Distinguish Between Realms

A. Give each realm what is appropriate to it; Roman coins acknowledge Roman sovereignty. “And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.” (Mark 12:17)

B. Major social changes may introduce unintended consequences; Christians rarely make good violent revolutionaries. “My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change:” (Proverbs 24:21)

C. Jesus dealt with the tax issue and the motivation for paying taxes on a different occasion; He was not exalting the state above the high lord of all reality. “He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee. (Matthew 17:25-27)

D. The state needs to remember its place; God, not the individual believer, will administer the final exam. Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. (Psalm 2:1-6)

E. Jesus gave His followers an example as well as an answer. A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

The Senior Perspective

1 Timothy 5:1-10

I. Respect Older Christians

A. Treat older men as fathers. Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren.” (1 Timothy 5:1)

B. Age is not the only factor in recognizing elders in the church; humility and cooperation are critical factors. “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time:” (1 Peter 5:5-6)

C. Treat older women as mothers. “The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.” (1 Timothy 5:2) “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)

II. Give Particular Respect to Widows

A. Actual widows have a formal position in the church. Honour widows that are widows indeed.” (1 Timothy 5:3)

1. God takes genuine widows personally. “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.” (Psalm 68:5)

2. Providing for widows makes believers like God Himself. “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let thy widows trust in me.” (Jeremiah 49:11)

B. Just calling a person a widow does not mean that person is eligible for formal recognition in the church as a widow; families must take care of their own. “But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God.” (1 Timothy 5:4)

1. People torture language and doctrine to free themselves from Biblical obligations; Jesus Himself exposed the problem. “But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” (Mark 7:11-13)

2. Theologically designated parents also deserve the honor expected for biological parents. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.” (Ephesians 6:1-3)

C. Biblical widows display clearly discernable patterns. “Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day.” (1 Timothy 5:5)

D. A woman who misuses her opportunities in the church is actually already dead. “But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth.” (1 Timothy 5:6)

1. Easy living is no sign of heavenly blessing; people who live well at the expense of the saints fail to understand the danger in which they place themselves. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.” (Psalm 73:5-7)

2. Jesus told a parable of a man so caught up in the world that he made no provision for Judgment Day and consequently lost everything. “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:16-21)

E. Keep people from embarrassing themselves through ignorant errors. “And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless.” (1 Timothy 5:7)

F. People who ignore or shirk their responsibilities are worse than unbelievers. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

III. Only Designate Genuine Widows

A. “Widow” is a calling, not an accident of time. Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man. (1 Timothy 5:9)

B. Real widows will have benefited the church in multiple, identifiable behavior patterns. “Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.” (1 Timothy 5:10)

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