The Bible offers guidance related to every area of life, including our finances, but if we read the Bible looking merely to glean principles, we turn the Good Book into just another self-help book.
Jesus evading His taxes? Of course He would never do such a thing, but that was exactly the accusation leveled at Peter one day by two temple tax collectors in Capernaum. After assuring the men that Jesus did in fact pay His due, the scene gets very interesting:
And when he [Peter] came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself” (Matthew 17:25-27).
A few years ago, I received a letter from the state department of revenue, politely but firmly informing me that I had not paid all of my taxes two years prior. With the late fees and penalties, the state claimed that I now owed them in excess of $900! And though it had taken the revenue office over two years to find the error, I was being given just under two weeks to make it right.
After a bit of checking on my part, I discovered that I had indeed made a small error on my state tax return. When I received the letter that day, I wanted nothing more than to go fishing. Maybe I’d find a trout with $900 tucked neatly inside. At any rate, I learned firsthand the principle, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Luke 20:25).
On the surface, it could seem that this Jesus story is just a reminder to be honest in paying our taxes and giving what is owed to the authorities (see Romans 13:7). But if that’s all we take away from this passage, we’re missing the bigger story! If Jesus just wanted Peter to learn about paying taxes, He could have simply spoken some principles and let the conversation end there, but He didn’t because there was more—much more—He wanted Peter to see.
The Bible offers guidance related to every area of life, including our finances, but if we read the Bible looking merely to glean principles, we turn the Good Book into just another self-help book. In truth, the Bible is not about us at all. It’s about Jesus. Both the Old and New Testaments point to Him. It’s great to know the Bible, but it exists so we can know Christ.
What can we learn about Jesus from the most miraculous tax audit in history?
Jesus has power over nature and circumstances. We can be confident in His ability to provide for our needs.
He says that He and Peter are “sons". When we become followers of Jesus, we become children of the living God, the King of the Universe! How amazing is that?
Jesus could have provided that tax money in a million different ways, but He decided to do something fun! Our God is a loving Father who delights to see His children smile, as the gruff fisherman Peter must have, holding that wet, flopping fish in one hand while dislodging the promised shekel with the other.
This story started out about money and taxes and ended with Peter discovering something truly wonderful about Jesus. This is how it is in our own lives as well. Just as Jesus orchestrated the events in the passage to reveal Himself more fully to Peter, He also uses our life’s circumstances and challenges to draw us closer to Him. So the next time a financial challenge rears its head, draw close to Jesus and see how He provides. You may just find yourself smiling in wonder at our great King.
Written by John Greco