Jesus has some radical and rebellious ideas about money. He rambunctiously overturns the money-lenders’ tables at the Temple to condemn their exploitation of the poor in the name of religion. He leaves a rich man quaking in his boots by proclaiming that a camel could sooner pass through the eye of a needle than a rich person enter the Kindom of Heaven. So the Pharisees figure they can catch Jesus in a tricky trap when they ask about paying taxes to the Empire. Say no, and Jesus admits to treason in public. Say yes, and the growing Jewish movement in opposition to Rome might attack him as a traitor. The Pharisees must like their odds, but Jesus is even trickier.
When Jesus answers questions with riddles and parables, Jesus plays the fool, in the best sense of the fool.
What does it mean to play the fool? We know the bumbling fool – the three stooges, for example, but the fool archetype is nuanced and provocative, just like Jesus.
The jester in ancient Egyptian courts, Aztec courts, and European courts throughout the last thousand years is often a wise fool.Like the joker in a deck of playing cards, the jester or joker or fool is unpredictable. Entertaining the royal family is the jester’s main function, but the jester is often a key advisor, the messenger of bad news, the political commentator who can get away with criticizing the establishment through humor and trickiness. By doing what is unexpected, with jokes and clever insight, the jester entertains and offers political strategy at the same time. Check out this modern jester:
(look on youtube: giving to people who give)
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; give to God what is God’s. Many people would call this generosity foolish, but it wakes us up to another way of being.
Just like the joker in any standard deck of playing cards, the Fool is an expression of play, spontaneity and creativity. The Fool is said to live in the moment, in harmony with nature. The Fool plays like Jesus, with riddles and parables. And Jesus is the primary Holy Fool, turning all this spontaneity, creativity and playfulness toward reconciling people with themselves, each other, and God.
The Holy Fool is wise as serpents, but innocent as doves. Just like the guy giving away $20 bills in the video, the Fool is guided by innocence, not cynicism. Sometimes we think of fools as crazy, but Holy Foolishness is the best kind of crazy.
As Martin Luther King said, “Modern psychology has a word: maladjusted. In order to have real adjustment within our personalities, we all want the well‐adjusted life in order to avoid neurosis, schizophrenic personalities. But I say there are certain things in our nation and in the world to which I am proud to be maladjusted. I say very honestly that I never intend to become adjusted to segregation and discrimination. I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few.”
Our world is unstable - climate change, violence, economic collapse, families and communities disintegrating...
The world needs us to foolishly, innocently, naively, maladapt - not adapt- to all this dis-ease. The world needs our hearty, holy foolish instability – not climate change, water shortages, biological and environmental disasters – but the instability of turning over tables of exploitation. The world needs our insanity – not the insanity of fear-mongering, police brutality and stockpiling weapons, but the insanity of turning the other cheek, and of giving our shirts as well. Paul writes to the Corinthians, “The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. We are fools for Christ’s sake.”
Our govenor Mike Pence decided that Syrian families, refugees, on their way to Indianapolis would be turned away, because the recent violence in Paris may have involved summertime pushing as a Syrian refugee. He said "Indiana has a long tradition of opening of arms and homes to refugees from around the world but, as governor, my first responsibility is to ensure the safety and security of all Hoosiers." Who is a Hoosier? Who is our neighbor? How would Jesus play the Holy Fool in this moment, as fear and revenge and suspicion rise naturally in our hearts and communities?
Remember Paul's words to the Corinthians, “The wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. We are fools for Christ’s sake.”