Thought for the week, 22 October 2017

By Rick Smyth

Today's gospel reading invokes many discussions – about the cost and risk we all face (as Christians) in being complicit in the injustices of our society, the relationship between Church and State, the nature of taxes, the list goes on. However, in the internet age where global leaders choose to communicate in 142 characters on Twitter and news broadcasters constantly interrupt our leaders, demanding “yes/no” answers to complex issues, there is another facet to this story which is perhaps also worthy of exploration.

The Pharisees sought to trap Jesus: "Yes" and the people would turn against him. "No" and he would find himself in trouble with the authorities. A seemingly no win scenario – as familiar to us today as it was then.

His answer is, of course, famously elegant. In standing back from the pressure to give that simplistic "yes/no" answer, Jesus lifts the eyes of his inquisitors above the petty devices of their trap to see the greater complexity of the world that we live in - in all its wonder and beauty. They were, quite rightly, amazed.

It is fashionable in our modern world to see virtue in the reduction of difficult issues into overly simplistic sound bites or binary choices. No one has time to consider the issues fully.

Everyone is pressing for tomorrow's headline rather than looking for lasting solutions. By definition, there are no easy answers to difficult questions. That is particularly true where faith is involved. In facing our society’s difficult issues, we too must step back, stop talking, look, listen and think beyond the sound bites and headlines in order to hear God. Who knows, in doing so we might even find some answers.