Paying the Temple Tax
Father, to You I owe the gift of this day's life. By Your Spirit, enable me to use it as I ought.
Consider: "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Matt. 10:16). Wise words for disciples.
The tax in question here is not the one imposed by the hated colonial masters (Matt. 22:15-22). It is the Temple tax, originally prescribed in the Law of Moses. This was a poll tax of a half shekel to be paid by all males over 20 years old. Specifically spent in the service of the tabernacle, it was instituted "as a ransom for [your] life" to the Lord and "making atonement for your lives" (Exod. 30:11-16). On several grounds, Jesus Christ as Messiah was not liable to pay. As God's Son, he does not need to pay a tax to his Father! Jesus could also have said that his life did not require any atonement or ransom. Moreover, he was even now inaugurating a kingdom where God's people would become the Temple in which he dwells as they worship him in spirit and in truth.
None of these reasons would have made sense to the tax collectors, and Jesus was not seeking controversy for the sake of it! "As far as it depends on you," Paul was later to write, "live at peace with everyone" (Rom. 12:18). Even though he was not truly liable, Jesus was not into tax evasion or even avoidance. Evidently, he paid his taxes as a matter of regular habit, and he paid this one too. Peter found the needed coin in the mouth of the first fish he caught at the Lord's instruction, but his skill and labor as a fisherman were still required. We may not count on finding money in the mouth of fish, but we can count on God to supply all our needs according to the riches of his glory by Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19). This he will do as he blesses our skill and our labor, and also as he performs miracles that demonstrate his special grace at work in our lives.
Although exempt from the tax, Jesus paid it anyway. What lesson was Jesus teaching Peter by paying the tax? What lesson is Jesus trying to teach you?
Lord God, I need to learn the lesson to not always demand my rights. Grant me sensitivity in tricky situations, so that glory may be given to You.
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