"When they reached Capernaum, those who collected the two drachmas came to Peter and said to him: Doesn't your Master pay the two drachmas? He said: Yes. And when he entered the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying: What do you think, Simon? The kings of the earth, from whom do they collect tributes or taxes? From their sons, or from strangers? Peter replied: From strangers. Jesus said to him: Therefore the children are exempt. However, so as not to offend them, go to the sea, and cast the hook, and the first fish you take out, take it, and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater; take it, and give it for me and for you."
- Matthew 17: 24-27, KJV
The World is Watching
As we read the passage we see that there are many things happening. It can be easy to focus on the miracles described: Jesus knew exactly where Peter had been, He knew the conversation they had had, and he had (or placed) a coin in the mouth of a fish for Peter to find. Although the heart of these verses is in a small and simple phrase: "so as not to offend them."
In this text, we see that Jesus refrains from exercising his rights as the Son of God to avoid any obstacles to sharing the Good News with people. Jesus always considered how his action or inaction would affect the spread of the Good News of God; So from Jesus, we learn that asserting one's rights is not always best for the sake of the Gospel or for the sake of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Through the example of Jesus, we learn how to exercise our own freedoms by prioritizing the Gospel.
The tax collectors asked Peter if Jesus would pay the temple tax. As a Jewish man of the second temple period, recognizing the Temple as the biblical earthly representation of God dwelling with humanity, of course, Jesus would have paid the temple tax. We would have expected nothing less from Jesus, in his humanity.
Deferred Divine Privileges
But considering the fact that Jesus was completely divine, it is surprising that he paid the Temple tax. In verses 25 and 26 Jesus, aside from whatever Peter was thinking about the whole situation, asks him a simple question: Are the sons of kings obligated to finance the king's work? In other words, is Jesus, as a child of God, obligated to financially sponsor the work of the Father? Peter responds by saying that even the kings of the earth do not require taxes or taxes from their own children. Jesus answers: "Therefore the children are exempt."
Jesus was not required to pay the temple tax. In fact, we know that Jesus was the true Temple in the sense that, being God incarnate, he was the supreme abode of God. Jesus would also be the only perfect High Priest and the only perfect sacrifice for sin. The sacrificial system carried out in the temple would only truly be completed through his work. However, Jesus still paid the temple tax.
Maintaining Heavenly Priorities
Why did Jesus pay this tax? We do know that Jesus supported authentic temple worship as it led people to understand the depth of their depravity and illustrated the need to shed perfect blood to restore their fellowship with a Holy God. Authentic temple worship undoubtedly pointed people to the person and work of Jesus himself!
Can you imagine what would happen if Jesus had not paid that tax and then defended himself by denouncing the tax collectors for their contempt for his divine provenance? The tax collectors would have had to accuse Jesus, presumably with the religious officials in Jerusalem. Who knows what kind of disruption and disruption this could have caused the ministry of Jesus!
Jesus willingly gave up his right as the Son of God for the good of humanity. He voluntarily pledged to pay the temple tax so that the offense he might have caused would never become an obstacle for people to come to truly know God through him.
The Gospel — The Priority of Freedom, Today
As we strive to learn from the example of Jesus, we must ask some important questions. Are we so committed to the Gospel that we would voluntarily give up our rights in order to spread the Good News of Jesus? Do we care enough for our brothers and sisters that we are willing to sacrifice our privileges, even our biblically allowed rights, never to be an obstacle, to see how Jesus could work in someone's life?
What kinds of "rights" could you give up in your life?
Don't get me wrong, there is great freedom in this life for believers in Jesus. We should feast on our freedoms and enjoy the time we have on earth. However, our freedoms must be carried out with an evangelical mindset first. As we learn about Jesus, the spiritual well-being of our brothers and sisters, and our relationship with the unbelieving community, they triumph over our earthly privileges. Jesus' priorities must become our priorities if we want our actions to reflect Jesus well in our community and in our world.