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Jesus: Productive and Protective

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MONDAY OF THE 19TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME

“But that we might not offend them . . .” (Mt. 17:27)

       Tax Day here in the U.S.—April 17th this year [2007]—was less than two weeks ago as I work on this reflection.  The timing makes me shake my head even more than I usually do when this story about Jesus and Peter and fish and taxes comes up.  My attitude about the first quarterly estimated federal and state tax payments was nothing like the Lord’s reaction to the temple tax.

     Jesus knows that as God’s fully-divine Son, he doesn’t have to submit to a temple tax.  But he seems glad to take care of it for himself and Peter.  Plus, he doesn’t give the tax workers any grief.  It’d help us represent the Lord better if we’d act like he did in this potential run-in with the taxmen.   See how he handles it?  He avoids offending them.  He knows they’re just doing their job and don’t have power to reform the TRS (Temple Revenue Service). 

     The Lord’s approach is productive and protective.  Productive: handling tense situations directly is more effective.  Little is likely to happen except time, energy and good will being wasted if we argue and complain to people who can’t do anything about a problem.  Protective: handling tense situations directly avoids “collateral damage.”  Little is likely to happen except wider, deeper harm to reputations, relationships and feelings when we complain or gossip about people instead of talking to them. 

     Christ is our teacher, just like he was Peter’s (Mt. 17:24).  May Christ’s grace and practical wisdom make us productive, protective disciples, “that we might not offend.”

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