The Path of Wisdom

One of the indispensable virtues required by those in the service of God is wisdom. Any Christian, who wants to serve God effectively, must respond promptly and faithfully to the injunction of the Lord: “You must be as wise as the serpent but as innocent as the dove” (Mt. 10: 16). In the Holy Scripture, God clearly shows his disdain for foolishness and his admiration for wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships, a wise attitude, belief, or course of action. One could describe it simply as good sense.

It is the wish of the Lord that His followers live according to the dictates of wisdom. For this reason he gave them the instruction, “be as wise as the serpent but as innocent as the dove”. He himself observed this injunction when the Pharisees and the Herodians set a trap for him with the question of paying tax: “Teacher”, they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” These men have carefully woven a net to rein him in their unforgiving cauldron.

However, Jesus was smart enough to deal with the situation. Although the Pharisees and the Herodians came with camouflaged respect and a false show of high esteem for his personality, Jesus was not deceived. He did not fall into their trap because he was as wise as the serpent without being less gentle as a dove. He looked at them critically. He analyzed their intentions carefully before reacting to their question.

Read In-Between the Lines

In his considerations, Jesus could read in-between the lines and differentiate a decoy from a dessert, flattery from genuine appreciation. He knew that the Herodians and the Pharisees did not like each other and that they did not usually agree. He then reasoned that the fact that they suddenly agreed and approached him subserviently and with copious compliments should not be taken on its face value. These pointers should be enough information for a smart mind to be on alert and to suspect that they had something up their sleeves. Against this background, Jesus knew he must tread with caution.

Thus, he responded to them, “Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They gave him a denarius and he then asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” Only then did Jesus give his answer to their question: “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

Note that the Pharisees and the Herodians expected a ‘no’ or a ‘yes’ answer, which would have given them the opportunity they have long sought to destroy him. If he had supported the paying of taxes, the Pharisees would have accused him of being an enemy of the Jews for supporting Roman imperialism, which has been oppressing the Jewish people. If he did not support the paying of taxes to Caesar, the Herodians would have accused him of making himself the enemy of Caeser and the Roman Empire. Any of these answers would have forced him to meddle unnecessarily in politics, which would have been catastrophic for his mission.

Common Sense

Those who are in the service of heaven need this level of common sense to fight the battle of faith, knowing that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). Things are not always what they seem. Only by walking through the path of wisdom can Christians distinguish real gold from gold-coated metals and separate mere appearance from reality.

[Readings: Tb 2:9-14; Mk 12:13-17]

Fr. Venatius Oforka

Fr. Venatius Chukwudum Oforka is a moral theologian. He was born in Nigeria and ordained a priest for the Catholic Diocese of Orlu. He is presently working in St. Martins parish, Oberstadion in Rottenburg-Stuttgart Diocese, Germany. Among his publications are The Bleeding Continent: How Africa became Impoverished and why it Remains Poor and The Art of Spiritual Warfare: The Secrete Weapons Satan can’t Withstand.

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