Hung Up On Taxes
Matt. 17:24 When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” 25 He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” 26 When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. 27 However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”
Historically the Jews had paid a temple tax which had been established by Moses. This was for redemption of the soul and the body. Jesus must have already gained a reputation for being unconventional because it’s assumed he’s not paid, or isn’t intending to pay the annual temple tax. Interestingly the officials don’t come directly to Jesus to ask for this money, but instead find his disciples and ask them. By now Jesus has performed many miracles and his reputation is well know and one can only imagine that the tax collectors were a bit uncomfortable confronting him.
The temple tax had been a foreshadowing of the price that the Messiah would pay for the redemption of his people. It was for the redemption of the soul and the body which is why it seemed such a curious thing for Jesus to pay this! His entire life was lived around redeeming the souls and the bodies of the people. The tax was “intended” to do so while Jesus was “really” doing it!
One can only imagine that it was the religious leaders who were prodding the tax collectors to make sure that Jesus had paid his fair share! They couldn’t see the true intent of the taxes, and therefore were blinded to what Jesus was providing for them.
They were hung up on taxes and missed the miraculous salvation story unfolding before them.
To satisfy the short-term needs of those religious officials Jesus told Peter where he could find the funds for the tax. Sadly, they got their “two-cents worth” but missed all the riches of the kingdom.
This is where the danger lies for you and for me. We can become hung up on the little details and miss what God is doing in our midst. We can become hung up on the “taxes.”
They may not be literal “taxes” but what might the issues be in the life of a believer? It’s easy to become hung up on the ways in which we have always done things. We become so obsessed with the details that we miss out on the big picture.
Think of the ridiculousness of this story. Jesus was healing the sick and setting people free spiritually. That was the intent of the temple tax. The temple tax was not accomplishing the goal, but Jesus was.
Spiritually our goal is Christ himself. We are to be united with him, transformed into God’s holy children living and serving the kingdom here on earth. There is a big picture involved in this transformation story and we are invited to participate in this work. If, however, we are hung up on the details of the way we have always done church, whether in the local community or even at the denominational level, then we will be satisfied with what the two-cents can accomplish. We will never experience the miracles that are already occurring within the kingdom.
Lord, thank you for the freedom of the kingdom. Amen.