Monday, April 14, 2008

Is God a Democrat?

The real title of my blog is, “Should I pay taxes?” But let’s be honest, “Is God a Democrat?” is a much better attention getter, isn’t it? The truth is that we all hate taxes. I haven’t met anyone yet who responds with, “Hot dog! I get to pay taxes!! Yippee!!” The truth is that taxes as a societal and political hot button is not new. It was the battle cry for independence in the Revolutionary days. Remember the motto? No taxation without representation was one of the impetus that led to the colonialists declaring independence from England. But even further back in history than that, taxes was a hot topic in the days of Jesus as well. So controversial was the topic of taxes in the Jewish world of that day that it was used in Mark 12:13-17 by the religious leaders as an attempt to trap Jesus.

We learn in verse 13 that the Sanhedrin sent a group of Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus with a trick question. The Sanhedrin was the Jewish equivalent to our modern day Supreme Court. Though Jerusalem was under Roman rule, the Romans allowed the Jews to settle their own matters that were solely Jewish in nature. These matters were taken up by the Sanalhedrin which had all the power. They were made up primarily of a religious group called the Sadducees who were not the largest religious sect of their day but were the most powerful. They denied most anything supernatural including the existence of angels, miracles and a resurrection. Now you can see why they were at odds with Jesus. Jesus taught the existence of angels. Jesus performed supernatural and amazing miracles. And Jesus was also known to raise people from the dead. Most all that Jesus taught and did struck at the very heart of the beliefs of the Sadducees. The Sadducees had already tried on several fronts to trip Jesus up with difficult questions but each time they failed. So now they send a delegation of Pharisees and Herodians to try the same thing.

Pharisees were the largest religious group of that day. They were traditionalists. They believed that spiritually was based solely on an adherence to a list of rules. This included the Law of Moses. However, to this they also added 615 additional rules including 365 additional prohibitions and 250 additional commands. They raised these man made laws to the same level as the Law of Moses and judged everyone’s spirituality by them. This was the group in the Bible that Jesus called snakes, vipers and blind guides. Not exactly what you would call the best way to win friends and influence people.

The Herodians were a group of Jews who were loyal to the Roman Government. Much in the same way that there were colonialists in the revolutionary war days that were loyal to the King, so there were Jews in Jesus day that were loyal to Caesar. By the way, the opposite of the Herodians in the Jesus time was a group called the Zealots. They were not just against Rome but were violent about it, often committing assassinations and instigating riots. One of the disciples that Jesus called to follow Him was a zealot by the name of Simon. It is interesting that the Sanhedrin would team up these two groups because the Pharisees and Herodians had very little in common when it came to their view of the Roman government. Their attempt to trip up Jesus centered on the issue of taxes. Be sure to read my blog tomorrow (Tuesday) to find out how Jesus responded to their questions about paying taxes.

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