Friday, February 26, 2010

The Temple Tax and the Coin in the Fish's Mouth (Matthew 17:24-27)

 Matthew 17:24-27: After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"

"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 sons or from others?"

"From others," Peter answered.
    "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. "But so that we may not offend them, 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."
(NIV)


Unlike the taxes levied by the Roman Empire, the temple tax is not burdensome for a devout Jew. The collection shall not go to the treasury of any foreign power, rather it would be used for the maintenance of  the temple services. It is for their religion. It is for their worship. It is for the house of God.

It is due. It must be paid immediately. Yet Jesus has not paid it yet. So the tax collectors approached the leading disciple of Jesus. They asked him, ""Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" Embedded in this question is the message that if Jesus doesn't pay the temple tax, then he is not devout in the faith. In other words, the reputation of Jesus is at stake. Every faithful Jew must pay the temple tax.

Eager to defend his teacher's honor, Peter quickly replied, "Yes, he does". Yet he was not so sure after all. When he arrived at the house where Jesus is staying, he wants to ask his Master about it. But Jesus, displaying his omniscience knew what is in Peter's heart so he spoke even before Peter could say something.

 "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes--from their own sons or from others?"
It is implied here that ancient kings collected tolls and taxes from their subjects and not from their sons. Peter replied correctly, "From others". Jesus then concluded "Then the sons are exempt".

The temple as God's house must be supported. God Almighty has levied this annual tax upon his subjects and they must comply. Yet Jesus as God's son is tax-exempt. He is the heir of all things and he is creator himself (Heb. 1:2). In Rev. 17:14, he is called King of kings. He is not subject to any tax because he is the owner of the earth and everything in it. (Psalm 24:1)

Yet during his humbled state on this earth, he laid this privilege aside. He continues, "But so that we may not offend them... " He avoided unnecessary offense that will make it difficult for people to hear his message. This same principle was followed by the Apostle Paul-- to the point of giving up some rights that would "hinder the gospel of Christ" (1 Cor.9:12).

The way he provided for the payment of the temple tax is an exciting one: "...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."

He is not only the Creator and owner of all things, he also controls them all. He summoned a fish to swallow a coin at the bottom of the lake and summoned it again to submit itself to Peter's hook. The coin inside the fish's mouth was enough to pay not just Jesus' tax but Peter's also. Elsewhere, he summoned a large school of fish to submit themselves to Peter's net in broad daylight- an unlikely time for fishing. The catch was so great that the net began to break. (Luke 5:1-6)

He could do that because he is in control over all the marine creatures. He is in control on how this earth's resources are disposed: all the pearls; all the gold; all the silver; all the oil. If you are a jeepney driver, he summons passengers for you. If you are a businessman, he summons customers and clients for you. If you are a farmer, he summons rain for your crops. Everything and everyone in the universe is under his control. "he holds all creation together" (Col. 1:17 NLT)
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Works Consulted:


Photo Credit: Christian Clipart
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