Joel Belz: Avoiding the audit

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 13th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. I’m just, well, after the rage room, how do we get from Point A to Point B here? 

Let me try this: Are you preparing your tax returns yet?

REICHARD: Well, that makes me feel like throwing a dish.

EICHER: Now, now. WORLD founder Joel Belz would advise differently.

JOEL BELZ, FOUNDER: Now that you’ve got your W-2 form in hand but are feeling increasingly guilty that you haven’t got around yet to your tax return, let me suggest that you take a fresh look at one of the Bible’s most famous passages about taxes.

Except that I’d like to suggest that when Jesus delivered his short “Render to Caesar” speech, he had something other than taxes on his mind.

Instead of giving the Pharisees a tax table telling them how much they could deduct for charitable giving for the year A.D. 29, Jesus was warning them to get their whole worldview straightened out.

In other words, don’t spend time on the details until you get the big picture in focus.

Jesus was stressing two main points as he flipped the denarius over in his palm:

First: Don’t pretend to be interested in the fine points of a God-centered worldview if your heart isn’t right.

Make no mistake. Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees was a put-down. He wasn’t really answering them at all. He knew the phoniness of their hearts.

It’s easy for us to be in the same position. We go through the formalities of studying and discussing what a “Christian” position might be on a particular subject—when deep in our hearts we have no intention of adjusting our lives.

When that’s our position, Jesus says he’s not interested in providing a response. He holds his wisdom for those who ask with sincerity.

So second: Jesus doesn’t offer cheap or trivial answers. What the Pharisees desperately wanted was a smartphone that would let them figure with certainty just how much belonged to Caesar and how much to the temple.

Too often, we too want an app that will crunch all the prophetic references of Daniel and Ezekiel, merge them with the price of oil futures in Iran, help us identify the antichrist, and predict the exact date of Christ’s second coming. We want quick, quantified answers. We’re modern day Pharisees.

But to us, as to the Pharisees, Jesus simply says: “OK, if that’s the kind of wisdom, you want, I’ll give it.” You can almost hear the Pharisees as they wander off. “We don’t know any more than we did before we asked! Now we have a whole slew of new questions.

That’s the point. If you come with the wrong spirit or seeking simplistic answers, God keeps you wallowing around in your ignorance.

But when you bow before him, exposing yourself patiently to the marvelous complexities of his wisdom, then he answers. That’s when he stretches your worldview, sending you away with delight instead of frustration.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Joel Belz.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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