Lord, help me to be obedient in all areas of life.
Read MATTHEW 17:24–27
The Temple Tax
24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
25 “Yes, he does,” he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”
26 “From others,” Peter answered.
“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”
New International Version (NIV)
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“Adoption through propitiation” is one summary of what the Gospel accomplishes. Give that some thought throughout the day and allow it to lead to thanks and praise.
Matthew takes us from transfiguration (1–13) to taxes (24–27). It’s a slightly disorientating transition. Jesus is displayed in his glory; next, the disciples are told “Nothing will be impossible for you” (21); then suddenly it’s all about taxes! Should Jesus pay the annual temple tax, paid by every adult Jewish male? The question has an underlying sinister element, reinforcing Matthew’s concern to highlight those who oppose Jesus. Can they catch Jesus out on a technicality, much as the Chicago gangster Al Capone’s career foundered on income tax evasion rather than his part in organized crime? Paying the tax was a mark of patriotism. Those who oppose Jesus want to expose him as a disloyal, dissident character who fails to comply with Jewish teaching and tradition.
Jesus questions the thinking behind the temple tax. What does the temple tax say about his relationship with God? Even worldly authorities treat family differently. Paying the temple tax calls into question his relationship with God as his Father and his status as the Son. Jesus has already hinted that the temple is being surpassed in him. He undermines the need for the temple and its worship, drawing us into direct, open relationship with God, “adopted into his Family—calling him ‘Father, dear Father.’” We share his status.
Jesus does not want to cause offense, however. There are battles to fight but also compromises to make. We don’t take a stand about everything. Why cause unnecessary offense? So, pay the tax, even if it is not entirely legitimate. How Jesus pays is astonishing, arranging for a fish to cough it up! It’s not just a trick to impress. It reasserts Jesus as the Son of God and ruler of all creation.
Jesus pays the tax. Does that surprise you, given he does not accept its legitimacy? In which areas must you take a stand and which are those to let go?
Lord, give us the discernment to choose our battles wisely and not to waste time on trivial issues.