Here in Michigan, the police arrested a man for assaulting a store clerk with his nose. Yes, you read that right. The store clerk asked the man to wear a mask while in the store. The man walked over to the clerk, grabbed the clerk’s shirt sleeve, and said, “Here, I will use this as a mask.” He then proceeded to wipe his nose upon the clerk’s sleeve.
Another incident concerning masks resulted in another man’s death. Again a store clerk asked a woman to wear a mask. In response, the woman spits upon the security guard. She was forced to leave the store. Later she returned with two men, confronted the security guard, and shot him dead in the head.
As far as I know, it is not required by law for individuals to wear masks during this pandemic. I know it is recommended that those who venture out into stores wear masks. Stores themselves have the right to require masks as it is their private property – no shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service.
What is the morality of wearing or not wearing a mask? Would Jesus wear a mask?
This question reminds me of a story where the religious leaders of Jesus’ day asked him about taxes. They asked, “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” Their goal was to trick Jesus into a catch-22 – a dilemma with no good answer.
If Jesus said they should pay taxes he would offend his fellow Jews who believed paying taxes was against Jewish patriotism. Rome was an occupying oppressor. Paying taxes only legitimatized Rome’s control over their homeland.
If Jesus had said not to pay taxes the religious leaders could then take him to the local authorities and have him arrested for insurrection.
Jesus knew they were trying to trip him up. He responded quite cleverly. “Show me a denarius,” he said. “Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
The point Jesus is making in this story is not that taxes were good or bad. It is our intentions that matter. Do you pay taxes because giving in to their oppression? Do you not pay taxes and fight for freedom? Jesus says neither. You pay taxes because even though the inscription on the coin is Caesar’s, it all belongs to God anyway. Give taxes to Caesar, but give it to the glory of God which it all belongs to anyways.
So what do taxes have to do with wearing a mask during this pandemic?
If we wear a mask some would say we are submitting to the fear-mongering of our government and placating to their demands. If we don’t wear a mask there are those who say we are putting others in danger, that we are not doing our part to ensure the health of our neighbors.
The Christian is caught in a catch-22. Which is the way out?
The way out is Jesus. He would wear a mask, not because he is giving in to the demands of the government, nor is he merely wearing the mask to keep his neighbors safe. He is wearing the mask to the glory of God, who has established the government for his own purposes, and who calls upon us all to love our neighbors as ourselves.