It was tax day in Capernaum and the tax collectors were making the rounds. Matthew, a former tax collector, tells this story of course.
Peter was out and about in town, maybe even on a honey-do list to take care of business that had been neglected while he was on the road with Jesus. That’s when the tax collectors stopped Peter.
Doesn’t your teacher pay the tax to take care of the Temple?
This temple tax began as a thanksgiving offering to God for His rescue of the Jews from Egypt. They had come away with Pharaoh’s good riddance gifts and could contribute to their sanctuary fund without hardship. (Exodus 30:11) Now that they had built the massive Temple, there were more expenses. The “temple tax” had increased to an equivalent of two-days’ wages.
Peter didn’t like the insinuation that Jesus was all talk and no pay, so he quickly answered:
Of course he will pay the tax. Let me talk to him.
But Peter didn’t get the first word when he returned home. As soon as he walked through the door, Jesus started the tax conversation.
So what do you think, Peter. Who do kings collect taxes from? Their sons?
Peter wrinkled up his brow. Of course not. From the people they rule and protect.
So, the sons are exempt? Jesus restated with a twinkle in his eye that Peter didn’t see.
Of course sons don’t pay tax to their father and Peter knew it. But Jesus does not give Peter a chance to respond.
Let’s not offend anyone here. Why don’t you go fishing, and when you catch a fish, look in his
mouth and take the four-drachma coin to pay my tax and yours..
Storyteller Matthew ends it there assuming we understand it happened just as Jesus said.
Now that’s a fishy story for sure.
But what does it mean for us? I don’t think it suggests fishing is a way to pay our taxes. How many fish mouths do you want to investigate?
Consider these take-away truths:
Jesus knows where resources are hidden.
Giving is a responsibility and a privilege.
Jesus didn’t give to the tax collectors: he gave to his Father. Gladly.
What Jesus says will always come true.
And you can take that to the bank! Even when it doesn’t pay your taxes, it will fund your life!