"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Matthew 17:24-27 -- Paying the Temple Tax & Our Mission

 24After 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?"
 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 sons or from others?"
 26"From others," Peter answered.
   "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. 27"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."

I've read or heard this story since childhood likely focusing the most on how utterly cool it was that Jesus had Peter catch the very fish that had a coin large enough and exact enough to pay both Peter's and Jesus' temple tax.  But then as I was reading these few verses the other day, I focused more on the words of Jesus.  Specifically the question he asked Peter about the kings of the earth collecting duties and taxes.  As Peter correctly stated, the kings collect from others - not their own children!

I contemplated this in light of Jesus' next words. The ones after affirming that "the sons are exempt."  

These:  "But so that we may not offend them..."

So here is Jesus basically teaching Peter that he - Jesus - is exempt from paying the temple tax. After all, the temple is for worshiping God and Jesus is God's son (or so the voice from the cloud declared), therefore, by logic Jesus should be exempt from paying for the upkeep and services at his own Father's house.

Yet Jesus didn't go around demanding his rights.  He didn't throw around God's name .. as in "I have connections" or use wasta in order to get out of paying the temple tax or to get privileges.  I mean if the King's son were in town wouldn't you expect the locals to do some nice things for him?  Then what about God's son who happened to be passing through the area healing the sick and such?

Jesus didn't come to earth in order to be served. He didn't give one set of rules for the common folks and claim exemptions based on his prophethood or sonship or loved-and-well-pleased status with God.  He lived what he taught.  He washed dirty feet. He lived simply. He served others.  He left an example!

When the bar Zebedee brothers came to him and asked to sit next to Jesus in glory, Jesus used the opportunity to share his mission and the mission given to all who desire to follow him.  Summarized it goes like this:

Jesus called them together and said, "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  (Mark 10)

See that? As followers of Jesus our mission is to serve others. Not to exalt ourselves. Or even demand our rights.  I'm sure you've identified pride and selfishness as very ugly traits -- in others and if you're being honest, even in yourself. The Bible says we should humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. If He wants to exalt us, He will. But let's not be guilty of exalting ourselves and lording over others.  Look at how Jesus lived and seek to live our lives this way as well.

"Seek first God's kingdom and His righteousness....then all these other things will be added to you as well."  -- Jesus in Matthew 6:33

Picture Source - Slavujac


Amber said...

A very excellent lesson!

Susanne said...

Thanks, Amber! I just need to apply this stuff to my own life. :)