Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Paying Taxes

Paying Taxes

Matthew 22:15-22

Cast:  4 men dressed as Pharisees.  They could be in robes or bright clothing but all must have some sort of small box strapped to their forehead.  Most of the speaking parts are between Pharisee #1 and #2.  Pharisees 3 & 4 follow the conversation intently by leaning in and nodding agreement or reacting with shock where appropriate.

Set:  Any.  Dialogue and gesturing move the action.

Group of Pharisees (#2, #3, & #4) already on stage begin singing and dancing to the tune of “We are Family.”
We are Pharisees.  We wear our phylacteries.
We are Pharisees.  We’re just men, no sisters, you see.
We are Pharisees…
Enter Pharisee 1 (Looking disheveled with phylactery hanging to the side, hair messed up, and head hanging).
#2:  Dude!  What’s up.
#1:  You wouldn’t believe it.
#2:  Try us.
#1:  OK.  You know how much time we spent on the tax question.
#2:  Yeah.  That’s a no-win scenario.
#1:  You would think.
#2:  But?
#1:  I so saw this playing out in my mind.  I would ask Jesus if it is legal to pay taxes to Caesar or not.  If he said no—and you know all the people wanted him to say no—then all we would have to do is inform the Romans and our problem would be gone.
#2 Right.  I hope that he says no.
#1:  He didn’t.
#2:  What do you mean that he didn’t?  We were not going to spring this on him until tomorrow.
#1:  Sorry, but he was a target of opportunity.  There were a bunch of Herodians hanging out along with a fair number of our fellow phylactery fellows, so I went for it.  If he said that you didn’t need to pay taxes to Caesar, then the Herodians would turn him in.  You know how they are in tight with the Romans.  We could just step back and let politics take its course.
#2:  So he said to pay taxes to Caesar?  Remember that works for us too.  He would be discredited among the people because Caesar declared himself to be a god.  If Jesus said to pay taxes to Caesar it the same as endorsing a false god.  We could nail him on first and second commandment violations.
#1:  No.  He didn’t say pay taxes to Caesar.
#2:  What then?  It was an either-or question, a simple dichotomy.  We framed it as a yes or no question.  You didn’t make it multiple choice, did you?
#1: No, but Jesus doesn’t always color within the lines.  In fact, every time we try to trick him or trap him he is always ten steps ahead of us.  It’s like he knows what we are thinking.
#2:  Only God knows what we are thinking.
#1:  Let’s not go there. 
#2:  Right.  Well, what did he say?
#1:  He said, and I quote: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.”
#2:  And you let him off the hook with that answer?
#1:  The people loved it.  What could I do?
#2:  So why do you look like a mess?
#1:  It was how he did it,
#2:  How?  What do you mean?
#1:  First of all, he looked at all of us, including the Herodians, and said, again I quote: “You hypocrites, why do you keep trying to trick me?”
#2:  What did you say?
#1:  I didn’t get a chance to say anything.  The next thing you know, he is asking the crowd for a coin.  Someone coughs one up in an instant.
#2:  Why does Jesus need a coin?
#1:  Stay with me here.  He looks all around the crowd.  They are glued to his every word.  Then he says, “Whose image is on this coin?”
#2:  Well, that’s a no brainer.
#1:  Right.  Everyone cries out Caesar’s.
#2:  What else would they say, Susan B. Anthony?
#1:  Then Jesus tells everyone—but he is looking mostly at me.
#2:  And?
#1:  Give to Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and give to God the things that belong to God.
#2:  What did you do?
#1:  I high tailed it out of there.  I felt that I had been put through the wringer and everybody was doing all they could not to laugh in my face.  It was the worst moment of my life.
#2:  Cheer up.  We’ll get this guy.
#3:  Hey I know a guy who knows a guy…
#4:  Who is an expert in the law.  We will trap this Jesus yet.
#2:  OK, straighten up your phylactery and let’s go.
All depart the stage singing
We are Pharisees.  We wear our phylacteries.
We are Pharisees.  We got whupped by Jesus, you see.
We are Pharisees…

The end.

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