Temple Tax

Temple Tax

24 When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?”

Matthew 17:24

There are a few stories in the Bible that are rarely used. Others are almost always told as a children’s story. This is one of those stories. The temple tax collectors asked Peter if Jesus paid his temple tax. Just so you know, this was neither tithe nor an offering that was being mentioned here. This was a tax that was created, and of which the Jewish priests were exempt from, which had to be given once a year. It was created during the rebuilding of Nehemiah and was probably supposed to be temporary as Israel was being rebuilt, the people were still enslaved and so regular tithes and offerings were probably not enough. By the time of Jesus, the Temple was flush with funds and there was no need for this tax but obviously the Jewish leaders would not pass up extra funds.

In verse 25, Peter answered, “Yes.” He did this of course without actually knowing or asking Jesus. He assumed or simply didn’t want his master to look bad and so answered with his own idea.

25 And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.

Matthew 17:25-26

As always, even though he wasn’t there to hear, Jesus knew what had transpired and he confronted Peter. The problem was obvious. If the Jewish priests and leaders didn’t have to pay the tax, why would the Son of God? What I love about this story is that, although he corrects Peter, he doesn’t blame or punish him. Instead he uses Peter to a miracle which also saved face for the entire ordeal.

27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.”

Matthew 17:27

I love how Jesus didn’t want to offend the tax collectors even though they obviously asked to offend Jesus. I also love how the coin was to pay for Jesus and Peter. Peter received a blessing even though he made a rash mistake. That is love and grace at work.

God bless,

Pr. Steven Couto