Dear Brothers and Sisters:
Recently we received a phone call from the Akko Municipality asking for our ministry to help provide back-to-school supplies for two hundred needy children. That very same day we also received another inspection of our building by the same Akko Municipality regarding property tax.
This to me was a contradiction and a paradox. Why? According to the national Israeli government’s Interior Ministry, as a house of prayer, we are supposed to be exempt from property tax. However, the municipality continues to question our status, attempting to charge us as much as possible.
In my annoyance at the city desiring to receive our help and yet at the same time charging us unlawful taxes, I found myself reading Exodus 21:23-25, “…an eye for an eye…” I wondered how I should respond according to the Word of God. My initial interpretation of this Scripture was that only if the municipality recognizes us as a house of prayer will we provide the school supplies.
Then I remembered the sentence of Mahatma Gandhi, “An eye for an eyes leaves the whole world blind.” Gandhi was inspired by Yeshua’s teaching in Matthew 5:38-42. I read Yeshua’s words that “…if someone comes to take your shirt give them your coat as well.”
I felt personally convicted regarding the case of the municipality and many other areas in which we should reflect our Lord by “…giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” I was faced with the choice of taking out my frustration on the needy, or reflecting Yeshua.
So the conclusion to the paradox is that despite the decision of the Akko Municipality regarding our property tax we will honor their request to help the children of Akko.
These days in Israel people are more and more living under the influence of the traditional understanding of “an eye for an eye.” This is why we are seeing more and more situations here in the land in which people are responding with a spirit of revenge. The recent killing of a teenager by a policeman, and the death of a father in an argument over a parking space, are only two examples symptomatic of Israeli society being drawn towards chaos. Where do we place ourselves as believers? We all find ourselves challenged daily in our responses to various situations. Will we react with anger toward our neighbor, co-workers, etc.?
In the heat of the moment are we capable of remembering Who it is that dwells in each of us – He who gives us the grace to reflect Himself? Only with this understanding can we stand and respond, not in revenge, but in the grace of our Lord, remembering that freely we have received and freely we must give (Matthew 10:8).