The Pharises sent their disciples and the Herodites to trick and trap Jesus. They begin "Paying Taxes to the Emporer" in Matthew 22: 15-21 by complimenting our Lord, as if a few sweet nothings could sway the King of Wisdom.
Teacher, we know you are a truthful man and that you teach the way of God in accordance with truth and that you are not concerned with anyone's opinion for you do not regard a person's status.
Did they think they could make Him take down His guard? Did they think they could make Him forget who they were or who He is?
From there, they begin their trickery asking the Lord if it is lawful to pay taxes to Cesar.
We can clearly understand why it may be considered unlawful to pay taxes when taxes are used for immoral behaviors and actions. Today, taxes fund legal but immoral things like abortion, perpetual and degrading welfare, and education, including in public and also in some private and parochial schools, that promote a sexual agenda aligned with all of the seven deadly sins. These are reason enough to make one consider paying taxes unlawful.
We can imagine the ancient world would be much the same with some taxes being legal but immoral. Promoting payment of immoral taxes would undermine Jesus' Divine status. Proclaiming Jews should not pay those same taxes would result in harsh civil punishment, not just for Jesus but also for His followers who were just beginning to understand, love, and worship Him.
It seemed Jesus was in a no win situation, but in His infinite wisdom, He saw things differently.
He was not afraid of civil punishment as the Crucifixion shows, but He avoided it in this case. His followers would suffer horrific persecution and martyrdom, but He does not call them to that at this point.
Instead, He does not rise to the bait.
The Lord, KING OF CREATION, is owed everything and who should, rightly, be given not just coins showing Cesar's profile, but all of Cesar's kingdom and every living creature in it, including Cesar himself. Jesus should have all the tricksters could see and everything beyond what they could see. Jesus is owed all goodness from the beginning of creation to the end of life on Earth throughout space and time. This includes the life and love of every one of the peole testing Him, all those following Him, and every one of us today too.
That is what He is owed, yet the gift of free will trumps what He "should" be given. Instead of forcing the issue, He seeks what is freely gifted, preferring that to beating His Head against a brick wall. Wisdom tells Him He will get nowhere by pointing out He is owed more than Cesar and going down that path.
When Your Ex Doesn't Pay Child Support
The court system claims to have a formula to determine child support. When I went through the court system one child received 17% of a father's salary. Two children receive a bit more, three more, and so on usually up to five children. Maintenance or alimony is also supposed to be based on a formula. The wife is supposed to receive a certain amount of money depending on how long the Marriage lasted, her current employment, her and the chidlren's health and age, children who may need additional care, and so on. Medical, childcare, and education expenses along with other intermittent expenses are also to be divied up between parents with the main bread winner paying the bulk of this.
However, if you hang around with single moms, you find that having formulas and enforcing them are two different things.
There are endless ways for absentee parent to get around paying what he owes. Men quit jobs, preferring unemployment to paying what is due. They work off the books so income cannot be tracked. Occasionally a man will hide under the skirts of his current wife and lover. He puts all purchases, such as houses, cars, and even insurance and cell phones, in the woman's names rather than his own so they cannot count as assets. Some dads just disappear.
I also want to stress that I write for women and so use men in the above paragraph, but there are too many stories of women and mothers doing the same and either hiding income or scamming their exes and the system in some way. Neither gender is innocent as a whole just as neither is guilty.
So much time, energy, and effort are put into trying to get what is owed through the court system. I did it myself. As an unemployed single mom of five young boys, with a divorce-caused foreclosure on my credit, I did not know where to turn. My boys and I needed the income my husband refused to pay and then hid. I was fortunate, in that we had some small savings, and I was able to draw on that for a short time, but money runs out quickly when there is none coming in and bills to pay and hungry, cold children to feed and try to comfort while you deal with your own trauma.
Trust me when I say I understand how hard it is to function in fear and dependency. I know the mistakes I made and the fear I felt. It was almost debilitating at times. Fortunately, I chose to use that fear as part of my motivation, and 14 years later my boys and I are in a better state because of that.
What Your Ex Actually Owes
The greatest problem with the court system dictating terms of divorce and what one parent owes to another is that it reduces Marriage to a formula and family members to monetary values. A father of one is no longer defined by respect, honor, and admiration. He is now defined by the court by 17% of his salary. A father of two is worth 21% and so on.
But single moms know better than anyone else the value of a good MAN. No price tag can be applied to a good father. He is the model of patience and persistence. He does not give up or walk away. He is provider and protector and does not leave his children to their nightmares in the middle of the night or illnesses that leave them balled up on the couch under piles of blankets, running to the bathroom at two in the morning, or alone in a hospital bed while mom takes care of siblings at home.
A good dad does not have to read aloud to his children, take them fishing, or coach their baseball teams. He doesn't have to tuck his toddler into bed every night or teach his teenager to drive or climb fire towers with his family. He doesn't have to burn cookies and bake breakfast or pass on his family's famous recipe. He doesn't have to hold his wife's hand as they fall asleep every night or pray at every meal or pull his wife's body close to his to look up at the stars. He doesn't have to sit around a backyard firepit or camp in the rain or run 5ks with sweaty teenagers. He doesn't have to build backyard swingsets or treehouses or gaga ball pits or even sit and play video games all day.
But he has to be there to do something every day.
And he can't ever leave his wife to do all of it.
A good father is there for his kids. He puts them first. He does not settle for part time parenting so he can be with a woman not related to his children full time. He teaches his children fidelity and grace, forgiveness and strength by modeling presence. He teaches them commitment and perseverance, trust and hope by sticking around. He teaches them more than I could ever fit into this post.
Our children and yes, we wives and mothers, should be given that. We are owed that. It is what we need to grow and thrive.
And none of that will ever be dictated by the court system. We can never get what is owed through the courts. A man who chooses not to give that, will fight to keep the little he has left - his monetary value.
What Can a Single Mom Do When Her Ex Doesn't Pay?
I want to stress again that I know the fear and confusion and heartbreak and anger and all that comes from having an ex that does not pay what he should, even in dollars and cents never mind what he should for the hearts and souls of our children.
I also know the futility of fighting a battle where Satan is the only winner.
At some point, we must agree that if our ex wants to be measured in dollars and cents and then fail to live up to that low standard, we must let him. When fighting for finances takes over our peace and the knowledge that God still has a plan for us and for our children, we must take a look at the motivation behind the fight. When we put all our effort and energy into getting what we can from an unworthy ex, we deny our own creativity and risk overlooking outlets God gives us and new paths He lays out in front of us.
Jesus shows us how to fight unwinnable financial battles. He refuses to get drawn into a fight that will injure Him and those depending on Him. Instead, He trusts His Father. He tells them to turn over to Cesar what is Cesar's and to turn over to God what is God's.
Single moms would do well to take this advice.
Your child's father has an obligation to pay for his child's needs. If he has sadly made that his main priority, then take that for what it is. Do not waste time bemoaning the father he could have or should have been. Do not let him distract you from being the mother your heart lons to be and that your children desperately need now more than ever.
Financially, get whatever you can from him to support your children. That financial responsibility is no one's responsibility but his and yours. That does not mean take more than you need or set out to ruin him. Do not going to court in vengeance or anger. Do not go with the angry declaration of "making him pay," but rather go with the hope of getting him to pay. Go to court in need and humility. Go as a Mama Lion protecting her cubs. Take whatever you honestly need and can get, and walk away with your chin held high.
If, or when, he refuses to pay, file the paperwork, stay on top of that when possible but do not let his failings rob you of your peace and purpose. If you find he does not pay or cannot honestly afford to give what you and your kids need to survive, know God still has a plan and you are His major player in that plan for your family. Play the high hand.
Rather than beat your head against the wall of the court system and an ex influenced by pride, eveil, greed, or lust, turn him over to Cesar to deal with and turn yourself over to God.
Seek His help. Pray. Go to Churches and private organizations for financial help. Frequent food pantries and organizations that help with heating and cooking costs. Accept gifts from family and friends. Ask for gifts from family and friends. Seek training that teaches you to budget and track where your money goes. Prioritize expenses from most important to least. Add in those infrequent or seasonal expenses.
Get ALL the help you can from all those who personally can give help when you need it. It is so difficult to make eye contact with benefactors. It is much easier to get welfare or WIC or HEAP payments from an inhumane government. Knowing firsthand who gives donates to your financial relief is hard! Most things that are humbling are. Humbling hard things are still the better path! Getting assistance from those you know allows them to SEE you and see reality they would rather not face or question. It makes you feel vulnerable when vulnerability is the last thing you think you need.
But goodness comes out of those personal relationships too! One of the greatest issues single mothers face is isolation and loneliness and not having a cadre. They crave personal relationships, someone to bounce ideas off of, and someone to laugh and cry with. Government funding provides none of this. Your ex's child support check demeans this. Financial devastation may foster that personal connection you so need. Remember, God brings beauty from ashes and good from evil.
Accepting help crushes pride and allows a separation of emotions to take place. You will find you can choose to be angry and resentful or humble and grateful. Many days, you may not be sure which emotion will win. That is understandable. I wonder if we see some of that in Jesus' very human response when he replied, "You hypocrites..." as well.
Go to Confession for days anger and resentment win; be joyful for the days humility and gratitude when. Know you are a work in progress. Remind yourself that your trials and your ex are tools in your progress. They no longer determine your progress. They do not define your progress. They are simply tools God uses to make you into the beautiful creation He has in mind as He thinks of you.
Finally, know that the help you need and accept are temporary. Take all you can for as short a period as you can. Know, while you are receiving, that you do so with a plan to get ahead and give back. Consider what long term career goals you have. Include the real possibilities of employment, benefits, and income. Choose what makes you happy AND pays the bills.
For example, being a poet may seem nice, but you will probably always experience the pain of neediness if you choose poet as your career. Chosen neediness damages dignity and will lead to your downfall over time despite your enjoyment of poetry. Choose a career that will provide for you and your family and get ahead so you can donate and help others. Pray over whether this is the right path for you and your individual circumstances, and then act in faith. Know God opens doors that need to be opened. Move ahead in trust.
Although many single moms find this hard to accept, reliance on government issued funding should be last on your list of resources. It should also always be seen as a temporary solution. I have been there and have needed those funds. I know firsthand many single moms do not take advantage of the system and are honest recipients of government help. That doesn't mean they find dignity or personal connection or true charity in that payment.
As Our Lord said, "Pay unto Cesar what is Cesar's..." You are not Cesar's. Take as little payment from modern day Cesars as possible lest you lose your humanity and come to rely on the government rather than God.
Remember, you are the Lord's. He knows what you are going through. He knows you will NEVER get what you should from an ex. He knows your fears, heartbreaks, and temptations. He knows your struggles and how easy it would be to get angry and resentful. He knows how easy it would be to become a statistic, fall into another relationship, or become invisible in a government court system or handout line.
He knows all, and He will never leave you, His Beloved.
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PS. This post is also a call to Churches and private organizations to step up their outreach. You were made to honor our Lord through service to Him and His children. Do not be content to let government entities take over where you should stand.