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"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Chump Change

The Pharisees went and plotted to entrap Jesus in what he said. So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin used for the tax." And they brought him a denarius. Then he said to them, "Whose head is this, and whose title?" They answered, "The emperor's." Then he said to them, "Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away. Matthew 22:15-22
I've always loved the term 'chump change'.

I think the word 'chump' comes to us around the same time that words like 'speakeasy' for a place where illegal alcohol was served (or, in lower class establishments, 'blind pig' or 'blind tiger') and, when there was also gambling involved in the establishment, some carried signs that said, 'No Tomatoes', meaning that no women were allowed.

A 'chump' is a foolish person. A 'hick' from the country who is unsophisticated, gullible and easily deceived.

'Chump Change' is an insignificant amount of money, money that can be easily disposed of. I have heard some of 'the girlfriends' describe some men in that way, "He nothin' but a broke-ass, chump-change dawg."

If Jesus had lived in this modern time period, I suspect he might have at least been tempted to use the term with the Pharisees who, near as I can figure, just about invented the term 'gotcha question'.

Jesus says, essentially, that whatever we give to Caesar is chump change compared to what we give to God. Which is more - much more - than than money. God wants our hearts and souls, our minds and bodies. What money we give to God is 'chump change' in comparison to how we use whatever else we've been given to the glory of God and the furthering of the Realm or the Kin-dom of God.

Now, there are those who see Stewardship Season as a time to build up the coffers of the church vs. a way to teach people something about the nature of God and their relationship with God and each other that involves an odd and wondrous combination of sacrifice and praise and joy and hope.

For those people, a pledge is like a tax - a percentage of income - that needs to be factored out of their wages through a sense of duty and obligation.

But a pledge is very different from a tax, isn't it? I don't know about you, but while I pay my taxes with a sense of sacrifice, in no way does it inspire praise or joy in me.

In a sense, my taxes are chump change compared to what I get in return for my pledge or my tithe to the church.

Jesus turns a 'gotcha question' into a 'gotcha response' - not just to be snarky about being tested but to speak directly to the chumps who quibble about change in order to bring about real transformation in their lives.

Unfortunately for them, they just walked away, leaving them to define themselves by the very label they tried to place on Jesus.

It's a great gospel about hope and transformation which I trust will give you something to consider about value and worth, especially in these times of economic fragility and crisis.

You are a child of God, of inestimable value and worth, not 'chump change'.

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