Friday, October 21, 2011

Matthew 22:34-40: The two greatest commandments: Love God, Love Neighbour

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."

Here we see Jesus sum up the entire commandments in two commands: Love God and Love your neighbour. Jesus did not create this idea but simply echos the idea that is heavily entrenched by the Jewish Tradition. In the ten commandments it is broken down into three sections: Relationship to God, Relationship to Family, and Relationship to Neighbour. Here Jesus has combined neighbour and family to highlight the real purpose of these commandments. Without love of God there can never be love of neighbour, for it is through God that we love. Without love of neighbour, we become alone and isolated. It is through our neighbours we can encounter God's love for us.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Matthew 22:15-21 Pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar

The Pharisees went off
and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech.
They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying,
"Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man
and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
And you are not concerned with anyone's opinion,
for you do not regard a person's status.
Tell us, then, what is your opinion:
Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?"
Knowing their malice, Jesus said,
"Why are you testing me, you hypocrites?
Show me the coin that pays the census tax."
Then they handed him the Roman coin.
He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?"
They replied, "Caesar's."
At that he said to them,
"Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar
and to God what belongs to God."

Here Jesus side steps the obvious trap, that if he said pay taxes to Caesar he would betray the Jewish people and prop up his Roman oppressors, and if he says no to paying taxes he would be arrested instantly. Jesus' response is quite clever because he says that you can only pay worldly demands with worldly goods and heavenly things with heavenly goods. So Jesus' answer is pay your taxes to Caesar because they are his coins. This is a lesson to us all, that although we are a people of God, we should not forget that we belong in the world as well.