Paying the Temple Tax

Peter is confronted by the temple tax collection committee and Jesus doesn’t want this to become an issue. How he resolves this is quite interesting — he sends Peter fishing!
Matthew 17:24-27

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One Reply to “Paying the Temple Tax”

  1. This passage is interesting for several points:

    1. The collectors came to Peter (not Jesus or Judas)
    2. Jesus knew they approached Peter, so he uses this as a teachable moment
    3. To avoid offense, Jesus provides a miracle
    4. The tax is paid for Jesus and Peter

    1. It’s interesting that the temple tax collector came to Peter rather than Judas (John 6:12 identifies him as the keeper of the money bag). It’s just my imagination, but perhaps they got nowhere with Judas, so they approached Peter for his support. At this point in the narrative, Jesus was well known to be powerful and probably a bit intimidating to approach.

    2. Whether Jesus overheard the conversation or simply inferred the activity, when Peter came inside, Jesus made this a lesson that Matthew uniquely records.  As a former tax collector, Matthew is sensitive to these kinds of issues and is particularly interested in how taxes are handled…at least that’s my opinion in this matter. 

    Peter gets the idea that “the children are exempt” from paying taxes, but this point requires a leap of faith beyond which the tax collectors (or their superiors) could make at this point. Trying to explain to them that Jesus is God incarnate, that the temple is himself (in essence), is way too difficult a conversation to begin when all they really want is a few coins.

    The old adage of “choose your battles wisely” comes to mind. This is not one worthy of making into a battle, but the way Jesus decides to solve the problem is quite interesting — he sends Peter fishing!

    3. Jesus doesn’t just grab the money bag from Judas and pay the tax, he provides a miracle through which the money is provided. There are a wide assortment of thoughts about this miracle, some see deep meaning in the fish, the coin, Peter fishing, etc., while others move on quickly as assert that Jesus simply didn’t want this to draw attention. I’m with the latter group, this was not something to become the center point of a discussion. Pay the tax and move on.

    4. It is interesting, however, that Jesus provides money for himself as well as Peter. Again, I’m of the opinion this is just to put the issue to rest, to de-emphasize it and let the tax collectors move on. Perhaps Matthew was trying to witness to these tax collectors and the efficient payment opened an evangelistic door. Just conjecture, but Christ doesn’t do things without meaning and this miracle is recorded for a purpose.

    Even though I side with those who spend little time discussing it, I am sure we should learn at least these four lessons from this short passage.

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