Previous blogs have covered the top ten teachings of Christ (seen on page 133 of the download ‘What on earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus’). Continuing now with Christ’s additional teachings. The next of which is ‘Render to Government its dues’.
How tempting it is to duck and dive our way through life. Not to declare all our income and overstate our expenses. Our minds seem pre-disposed to try and work out how we can get the most benefit from every situation. If it means a little fiddling of figures, a little ‘white’ lie here and there – who would know? But as believers are we not to be the most outstanding of all citizens? Are we not to pay our debts promptly? One of God’s names is Jehovah-Jireh which means He will be our Provider. A situation occurred where Jesus was expected to pay a tax. But He earned no income. His economy was of the Kingdom of heaven.
Go hook a fish
They had arrived in Capernaum. The collectors of the temple tax went up to Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the half-shekel?” Peter answered, “Yes.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly rulers collect duties or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt [from taxation]. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them [to pay the temple tax] for you and Me.” Matt 17:24.
He is looking for our surrendered lives
What a beautiful picture. Note the word Jesus spoke to Peter ‘first’ to address the tax issue. How easy it is for us to put off paying our debts. To put the piece of paper to the bottom of the pile. There must have been many demands on Jesus, many of his followers wanting to know this and that, many a line of people wanting healing. But Jesus dealt with the debt first. We are to be no man’s debtor. That there be no liability against us. What Jesus was instilling here is that just as the sons of earthly rulers are exempt from paying taxes on earth, so are sons of the heavenly Father exempt from paying taxes to God. For a tax is a payment and God is not looking for payment, He is looking for our surrendered lives – our hearts and minds given over to Him. Render to Government its dues.
And here lies an example of the heavenly Father providing supernaturally. Just as He longs to do for each of us. But this comes through faith. It comes to a life not seeking its own way through life but instead seeking first the Kingdom of God.
A ransom for the soul
Henry says – Christ was now at Capernaum, His headquarters. He did not decline being called upon for His dues, but rather came ready to pay them. The tribute demanded that which was required from every person for the service of the temple. It is called a ransom for the soul, Exod. 30:12.
The demand was very modest. The collectors stood in such awe of Christ, because of his mighty works, that they dare not speak to Him about it, but instead asked Peter. Peter answered, “Yes, certainly; my Master pays tribute; it is his principle and practice.” He was made under the law (Gal. 4:4 But when [in God’s plan] the proper time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the [regulations of the] Law). Under this law, He was paid for at forty days old (Luke 2:22), and now He paid for himself. He was made sin for us and was sent forth in the likeness of sinful flesh, Rom. 8:3.
He had no sin to atone for
Christ, that in everything He might appear in the likeness of sinners, paid it though he had no sin to atone for. Thus He fulfilled all righteousness, (Matt. 3:15 But Jesus replied to him, “Permit it just now; for this is the fitting way for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John permitted [it and baptized] Him). He did this to set an example of rendering to all their due, a tribute to whom tribute is due, (Rom. 13:7 Pay to all what is due: tax to whom tax is due, customs to whom customs, respect to whom respect, honour to whom honour).
Christ appeals to the way of the kings of the earth, which is, to take tribute from strangers, but not from their own children. There is such a community of goods between parents and children, and a joint-interest in what they have, that it would be absurd for the parents to levy taxes upon the children. It is like one hand taxing the other.
God’s children are freed by grace
Christ is the Son of God, and Heir of all things. The temple is His temple (Mal. 3:1 Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will prepare and clear the way before Me. And the Lord [the Messiah], whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming). The temple is His Father’s house (John 2:16 Stop making My Father’s house a place of commerce!), and therefore not obliged to pay this tax for the service of the temple. These immunities of the children are to be extended no further than our Lord Jesus himself. God’s children are freed by grace and adoption from the slavery of sin and Satan, but not from their subjection to civil magistrates in civil things. Here the law of Christ is expressed – Let every soul (sanctified souls not excepted) be subject to the higher powers. Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.
Christ waived His privilege and paid this tribute—to prevent offence. Few knew, as Peter did, that He was the Son of God. We must never decline our duty for fear of giving offence (Christ’s preaching and miracles offended them, yet He went on with him, Matt. 15:12, 13, better offend men than God). But we must sometimes deny ourselves in that which is our secular interest, rather than give offence. (Rom. 14:13 Then let us not criticize one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block or a source of temptation in another believer’s way).
For our sakes He became poor
Christ did not have even fifteen pence to pay his tax with, though He cured so many that were diseased. For our sakes He became poor, (2 Cor. 8:9 For you are recognising [more clearly] the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [His astonishing kindness, His generosity, His gracious favour], that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich [abundantly blessed]). In His ordinary expenses, He lived upon alms (Luke 8:3 Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means [as was the custom for a rabbi’s disciples]), and He lived upon miracles.
He provided Himself with money for the tax out of the mouth of a fish. Whether his omnipotence put it there, or his omniscience knew that it was there, it comes all to one. It was evidence of His divinity, and that He is Lord of hosts. Creatures are at the command of Christ, even the fishes of the sea are under His feet.
Peter had something to do
Peter had to catch the fish by angling. Even in miracles He used means to encourage industry and endeavour. Peter had something to do, and in so doing teaching us diligence in the employment we are called in. Let us be ready to work for Him. The fish came up, with money in its mouth, which represents to us the reward of obedience. The work we do at Christ’s command brings its own pay along with it. In keeping God’s commands, there is great reward, Ps. 19:11. Where the heart is opened to entertain Christ’s word, the hand is open to encourage His ministers.
This coin was just enough to pay the tax for Christ and Peter. Christ could as easily have commanded a bag of money, but He would teach us not to covet add-ons. But to be content with having enough for our present situation. And to trust God, though we live from hand to mouth. Christ made the fish his cash-keeper. God’s providence is our storehouse and treasury as we obey Him. If we have enough for today, let tomorrow take care of itself.
They shall shine with Him
Those that are workers together with Christ in winning souls shall shine with Him. What Christ paid for Himself was looked upon as a debt; what He paid for Peter was a courtesy to him. If we have this world’s goods, it is a most desirable thing to God to not only to be just, but to be kind. Not only to be charitable to the poor, but obliging to our friends. What is a great estate good for, but that it enables a man to do so much the more good?
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
Fishers of Men When you think of those of whom you read Who are in anguish, do you ever think How my heart aches with the woe, the anguish of it? Oh yes, My heart truly does sink. If I beheld the city and wept over it How much more Should I weep over the agony of these troubled hearts; Hearts for Me to explore? Hearts that seek to live Without My sustaining Power “They will not come into Me that they might have Life”. They realise not the urgency of the hour. Live to bring others to Me, The only source of happiness and heart-peace Live, live only for Me and you will see A measure of My Kingdom’s increase. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father, forgive me for living to please myself and looking for how I can benefit from every situation. Help me be a willing worker for You. And to trust You for all my provision. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.