Today’s reading is Luke 20:20-21:4 (NIV):
Paying Taxes to Caesar
20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 25 He said to them, “Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” 26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.
The Resurrection and Marriage
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too.33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” 34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’[b] 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.” 39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, “Well said, teacher!” 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Whose Son Is the Messiah?
41 Then Jesus said to them, “Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David?42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand 43 until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”’ 44 David calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?”
Warning Against the Teachers of the Law
45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
The Widow’s Offering
21 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. 3 “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. 4 All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Since coming to college, I have met more nonbelievers than I have in my entire life before it. Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it is true that I have held more conversations about my faith with nonbelievers than ever before. Having grown up in church (almost literally), I did not have many incidences where I was questioned about what I believed, because everyone I knew believed in the same thing I believed in.
To be honest, the questions people asked me, regardless of whether they were coming from a place of mere curiosity or upright hostility, paralyzed me at first. I did not know how to explain the things I did or believed without using Christianese, and I could not translate the Christianese into non-Christianese. I would stumble over words and break into a cold sweat, trying to play out what I was going to say before the silence got too awkward, but ending up uttering “I don’t know how to explain,” with an apologetic expression on my face. I felt ashamed of my own helplessness every time that happened, and I found myself trying to avoid that direction in my conversations. But I soon recognized and accepted that what I was doing was not Biblical. While avoiding and ignoring the questions and doubts others have about our faith may be easier, Jesus never shied away from them, and we are supposed to be like Him.
In the latter half of Luke 20, Jesus demonstrates what this looked like during His day, which was, not unlike ours, antagonistic toward the message He brought, calmly facing the traps laid by spies and silencing them with indisputable answers. When asked whether they should pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus distinguishes between the physical and the spiritual (Lk 20:22). The intent of this question was to get Jesus to say that they need not pay taxes since everything was God’s and He ruled the world. Had Jesus answered so, He would have been speaking against Caesar’s authority and they would have been able to capture and punish Him. By drawing a line between what was Caesar’s and God’s, Jesus explained that even Christians, though citizens of God’s kingdom, are also citizens of this physical world and are to follow its laws. Soon after, the spies also ask him whose wife a woman would be when resurrected if she had several husbands during her life according to the law (Lk 20:33). Jesus answers that the resurrected will “neither marry nor be given in marriage,” making the concern over the possession of the wife completely irrelevant (Lk 20:35). To their dismay and astonishment, Jesus gives the spies clear, irrefutable answers to each question they brought (Lk 21:26, 39).
We can certainly learn many different things from Him in this excerpt of scripture, but one thing I would like to bring to our attention to is His attitude as a messenger of the good news. Those who teach and spread the good news have greater responsibility to set examples and be ready with answers even to malicious actions and words. Even then, our answers should not merely be counterarguments. As Jesus himself uses the question on resurrection to describe God the Father and God of the living, we should also take those questions of doubt to reflect on God and His will and love for us (Lk 20:36, 38). But the mere fact that we are just humans and not part of the Trinity leaves us at a loss of what to say—we cannot come up with wise answers at a moment’s notice.
But God tells us to not worry. He says he will put in our mouths the words that need to be said in response, that they will spell out wisdom and truth (Lk 12:12; Lk 21:15). So we should face the doubters instead of avoiding or ignoring them, asking God to speak through us to deliver His message. Pray wholeheartedly while speaking—let God do His work through you. And also remember that it is okay to have no answer. Although we are told to be prepared with answers, we cannot know everything. You can always respond with honesty, that you also are not certain, and that you would like to talk about it again in the near future after you have done some research. When you say that though, do follow up on that conversation, even if you are not anywhere closer to an answer. Who knows if your visible effort to keep your word and continue discussing spiritual things would soften their hearts for the good news you share? Our being opposed is just another opportunity to dive deeper into spiritual conversations, to create intentional relationships with others who do not know Christ.
Helen Kim ’18 is an Environmental Science and Public Policy and Sociology joint concentrator living in Kirkland House.