Jesus and Tariffs
Traditionally, a tariff is something countries use to impose a tax on imports and exports, with the goal of encouraging citizens to produce and purchase more products at home. As I am sure you are aware, it has recently been used as a pressure point in the development of foreign trade deals and immigration policies. I will let the professional economists decide whether this is good or bad for our country. I have never been in a boardroom where billions of dollars are at stake and I don’t fully understand the dynamics at play.
But I do understand how the cost of something impacts our behavior, and ultimately, our souls. Many of Jesus’ illustrations focused on this relationship.
In His parable of the farmer who built bigger barns to store a bumper crop so he could “eat, drink and be merry” God said, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20) The farmer’s barns were expensive, but the cost of a self-absorbed life was much more expensive. Had the farmer considered the costs, he might have contemplated different priorities.
In 1 Corinthians 6, the Apostle Paul was appealing to those who thought it was alright to claim Christ as their Savior while living a promiscuous life. Even today, there are those who want Jesus to “stay in His lane.” They want eternal life, but they don’t want Jesus telling them how to conduct their sex life. Paul wrote, “You were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Once, Jesus shared the example of a man who decides to build a tower before calculating the costs. He forms the foundation, but runs out of money before finishing the project. Then he becomes the town joke. Jesus went on to say we must give up everything to follow Him. I don’t believe Jesus was saying we can’t have possessions, but we must realize everything we have is subject to His kingdom goals when we decide to follow Him.
During Jesus’ ministry, a successful young man asked Him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus quizzed him on his faithfulness to God’s commandments and he passed with flying colors. Then He added a troubling challenge: “”If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) Obviously, Jesus doesn’t ask everyone to sell their possessions as we know His closest disciples continued to own their fishing boats and homes. But, in this man’s case, Jesus knew he would have trouble following Him if his decision cost him nothing. He could continue to live with the delusion that good behavior would get him into heaven, or he could give his heart to the Lord. But he couldn’t do both.
The message of Jesus is clear. Following costs. Fortunately, the incomprehensible price for our salvation was purchased on the cross. It is this price that establishes our priorities and determines the place the kingdom of God has in our hearts.
I don’t know if Jesus would have an opinion on tariffs or not. Perhaps He would say the same thing He said when some of His enemies tried to trip him up with a question on paying taxes. He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesars and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22;21)
Maybe we should spend a little less time worrying about foreign policy and a little more time thinking about eternity. Both are important, but I feel certain one is more critical when it comes to our souls. If you aren’t sure which, give me a call. I would love to talk trade with you!