What I’m Thinking: Unsatisfactory Answers

When people ask questions in the Bible, they don’t always get the answer they’d been hoping for.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about unsatisfactory answers. We are, in this day and age, quite used to them if not, I suspect, entirely reconciled to them. We get unsatisfactory answers from product manufacturers. We get unsatisfactory answers from politicians. We get unsatisfactory answers from, well, our children. We get unsatisfactory answers all over.

There are a couple of places in Scripture (and they are in the lectionary this week) in which there are some equally unsatisfactory answers. Moses had some questions for God (Exodus 33:12-23). Who will be going with me? Moses wanted to know. And will you accompany the people as we continue our journey? And will you show me your glory?

God said, Yes, I will be with you. I will be with this people for they are my people. But no, Moses, you cannot see my glory because nobody can see my face and live. Therefore, I’m going to put you in a crack in the rock. I’m going to put my hand over you. I’m going to walk by, and when I take away my hand you can see me, but you can only see me from behind.

Meanwhile, in the twenty-second chapter of Matthew (Matthew 22:15-22), it was a trap. The Pharisees and the Herodians wanted to find a way to diminish either Jesus’ popularity or to put him in real danger from the authorities, and so they asked, “Is it right to pay taxes to the emperor or not?”

The ardent rebels among the crowd if Jesus had said, Yes, pay taxes to the emperor, would have been outraged and would have left him. And if Jesus had said, No, don’t pay taxes to the emperor, well, there were plenty of Roman soldiers around who would not respond well to that particular point of view.

You probably remember the story. Jesus asked to see a coin, asked whose face was on it – it’s the emperor’s – and then said, “Give to the emperor what is the emperor’s; give to God what is God’s.”

It was an answer although not a resolution, since we all know that the conversation over what is the emperor’s and what is God’s is pretty much an eternal one. Unsatisfactory answers are just simply a part of our existence. As Moses discovered, there is a limit to what we can experience. There is a limit to what we know. Mystery, well, mystery is like God’s hand over us. In one sense it prevents us from harm, but our curiosity: it will still wonder.

And Jesus, of course, showed us that it is one thing to try and set a trap. It is another to earnestly consider what is the emperor’s; what is God’s. An honest conversation over those questions; that is of value. A trap: not so much.

So if I can encourage you to an earnest consideration of mystery and of what is good, then I think we might arrive at some more satisfactory answers if not, thanks to mystery, eternal ones.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: | Posted on October 12, 2020

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