Someone once said, "There are only two things that are certain in life; death and taxes!"
In today's Gospel, the Pharisee tries to draw Jesus, not into a search for the truth, but into a battle where there can only be winners and losers. This is his mind set and he cannot liberate himself from it. So everything becomes conflict. Territory has to be defended. And, as James Finley so rightly stated, "Anyone who has territory to defend is already finished".
Like a wise old fish, Jesus refuses to be baited.
So, the Pharisee, who hasn't had much experience of losing, sets trap number two. He invites Jesus to choose between two false alternatives. Yes or No! In some situations, this is okay. Is it snowing? Are the lights on? Did I remember to unplug the iron?
But relationships, prayer, community and even morality rarely fit these narrow parameters. These require thoughtfulness, discernment and careful exploration. Avoiding the trap of Yes or No creates the space for a better approach.
Next. Notice how Jesus does not try to put his opponents down, or to win in such a way that they are discarded or demeaned. He names their malicious and ego driven intent - He knows their game. And then, He invites them to walk the tightrope of tension between God and the Emperor. In this way, He offers us a map on how to better navigate the complex world of faith and relationships.
From the Taoist wisdom Tradition: Once upon a time, a boatman saw another boat heading towards him in the fog. He called out a warning but the boat just kept on coming. He yelled to no avail. Then he started shouting and screaming and cursing as the boat came closer and closer. When the boat was close enough, he realised it was empty. Immediately, his fear and anger subsided and he steered his own boat away, avoiding a collision.
" It is easier to fight to be right than it is to be empty to be true." (John Shea, p.304)