Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Matthew 17:24-27 -- On Fish and Taxes

"And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee."
Matthew 17:24-27

The tribute that the collectors are asking for here was a temple tax, which helps us to understand the symbolism of the story somewhat.  It might be symbolic of God as the King and Jesus as his son, being free of the obligation to pay for the upkeep of his own temple, or really any tax, since God isn't subject to being taxed for his own stuff.  Whether or not that is the exact symbolism, the point here is that Christ wasn't taxable. :)

The story goes further though, and teaches an interesting lesson.  Instead of asserting his divine (and tax-free) status, he provided the means to pay the tax through a miracle.  Instead of behaving like many of the priests of the day who considered themselves above being taxed, he set an example of tolerance and kindness by backing down after he made his point to Peter, so as not to offend others who didn't have the same privileges, and causing unnecessary problems and conflict.

The miracle showed that he didn't need money, and also that he had control over everything--but it wasn't a point he was making to prove he was powerful.  He only wanted to show Peter that he didn't need to be concerned about tax collectors. :)

Today, let's learn the lesson that God was teaching Peter.  Let's remember that God is in charge of everything.  We should render unto Caesar the things which are his (Matthew 22:21) to avoid offense and strife, and definitely avoid being belligerent about our rights, but we should also never get freaked out about those minor (compared to God) things when we have the Lord to trust in.  If God could get a fish to deliver his taxes, he *certainly* can help us to take care of the problems in our lives.  Let's make sure that God comes first in our lives, always, and not let monetary (or other) distractions get in the way of that.

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