FREE TO GIVE UP RIGHTS
Holy God, grant today that my words and actions may point others to Christ, the Light of the World.
Read MATTHEW 17:22-27
Jesus Predicts His Death a Second Time
22 When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. 23 They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief.
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)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
When might you be willing to give up your rights for the sake of the gospel?
This strange passage is not paralleled in the other Gospels and it is hard to discern its place in Matthew. Paying the Temple tax annually was an obligation for Jewish males (about two days’ wages). If Matthew was writing in the early AD 80’s’, this tax was demanded by the Romans and was a contentious issue. Most Christians saw themselves as distinct from Judaism and probably felt they should not have to contribute to the upkeep of the Jewish Temple, let alone its Roman replacement, so the issue raised here was relevant in Jesus’ time and also subsequently.
Jesus indicates that a key principle was that his followers should avoid unnecessarily offending others. Thus the Temple tax is to be paid, not just because it is something God requires, but because refusal may cause offense. Even though this tax would go into the hands of the very people who would put him to death, Jesus still refused to use his personal freedom as an excuse to avoid his obligation. He sets an example of voluntary surrender of his rights, a challenge not only to these disciples but also to the church of the future.
Jesus’ point here is similar to Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians: it is appropriate, even necessary to sacrifice one’s own privileges and liberties for the sake of the gospel.1 Children of God belong not just to God but to the church and the world. The task of the church is to win the world to Christ. Therefore one’s actions must always be weighed with consideration of wider consequences. ‘For we do not live to ourselves alone.’2 ‘… we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ.’3 Freedom is not a right but a privilege, to be given up for the glory of God.
Lord, help me weigh my actions as I seek to live a life that commends your gospel.
Lord, I need your wisdom daily as there are so many choices, so many decisions to be made. I want to honor you and keep from unnecessarily offending others, so please help me in this.
1 1 Cor 9; 10:29–33 2 Rom 14:7 3 1 Cor 9:12
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