A Fish and a Coin
16 April 2018
GraceNotes – A Journey of Discovery
Scripture: Matthew 17:24-27 (Click link for scripture in Bible Gateway)
24 On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” 25 “Yes, he does,” Peter replied. Then he went into the house. But before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Peter? Do kings tax their own people or the people they have conquered?” 26 “They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replied. “Well, then,” Jesus said, “the citizens are free! 27 However, we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.” (Matthew 17:24–27 NLT)
After a busy, eventful few days of ministry around Galilee, Jesus and his disciples returned home to Capernaum. Peter had gone out to do some errands and the Temple Tax collectors stopped him on the street with a question, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple Tax?” (Jewish law required each male Jew to pay a tax to support the Temple operation and upkeep. There were Temple tax collectors, in addition to Roman Tax collectors in each part of the country. Only Matthew records this incident. Maybe because he had been a tax collector.) “Yes, he does,” Peter replied quickly, then went in the house to ask Jesus if that was true!
Before he had a chance to speak, Jesus asked him some tax-related questions, then concluded that since Jesus is King of Kings, he and his disciples shouldn’t have to pay. Then Jesus said, “Peter, to avoid offending them, go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us. And bring the fish home for dinner!”
Jesus used the question about the temple tax to teach Peter (and us) a lesson. As followers of Christ we are free, but we must sometimes relinquish our rights in order to not cause others to stumble. I’ve come to realize that when I or my friends are focusing on “our rights”, we usually are not focusing on what matters most to Jesus! True freedom is not demanding our rights but serving others.
Father, I’m reminded, again, that when I’m focusing on and demanding my “rights” it usually means that I’m not putting others first. When I find myself thinking “It’s my right as a Christian,” or “It’s my right as a citizen,” I’ve drifted from the most important thing. You said to love others as I love myself. Help me to love better! For Jesus’ sake.