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Jesus Pays the Temple Tax

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In a newly created nation in Africa, an elderly native was told that he was going to be taxed to support the government. “Why?” he asked. “To protect you from enemies, to feed you when you are hungry, to care for you when you are sick, and to educate your children, … More

Taxes
When Jesus and His disciples arrived back at Capernaum, the tax collectors were waiting for them (v. 24).  Every Jew 20 years or more of age was required to pay a temple tax of half a shekel (Exodus 20:13-24). Apparently Peter and Jesus had not yet paid their tax for that year. It seems that as the tax collectors confronted Peter they may have been  implying that since they had not paid their taxes they were not keeping the law. Some commentators imply that Peter was asked if Jesus had paid his taxes and when he dogmatically replied yes he lied. The text actually says, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” Peter responded that the Lord would pay the tax.

Before Peter could share this matter with the Lord, He had read his thoughts and had asked if kings collect taxes from their own children (v. 25). Peter replied that kings do not collect taxes from family members because they are exempt. By implication He was saying that as the Son of God He did not need to pay taxes for the support of His Father’s house. It also infers that His disciples, as sons of the kingdom, should be free from such taxes (v. 26).

However, Jesus did not want to offend or seem to be guilty of disrespect for God’s house so he arranges for payment (v. 27). He tells Peter to do something that he really enjoys doing and that is fishing.  He also instructs Peter that as he throws out his line there will be a special fish that will bite the hook. When he draws it in, it will have a coin in its mouth that is the exact amount needed to pay the tax for both Himself and Peter.

Application

Technically Jesus did not have to pay the tax; but for practical reasons, He paid it. As a Christian, I must never use my freedom in Christ to hurt my testimony or diminish my influence with others.

Matthew 17:24-27 (English Standard Version)

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the tax?" He said, "Yes." And when he 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."

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