God Tax

Should a church charge admission?  Why not?  It costs money to run the air conditioner and keep toilet paper in stock.  They have to pay the light bill and the custodian; why not charge people a small fee?  Rubs you the wrong way, doesn’t it?  But why?  In Old Testament times, God set up a fee system for the tabernacle expenses, that in Jesus’ day, was called “the temple tax.”

Here’s what Jesus said about it.  If you fully understand what is going on with this, then you are the first one…

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”  (Matthew 17:24-27)

When commentators write about this passage, their favorite word is “perhaps.”  No doubt there are some intriguing, puzzling aspects of this story.  The deal with the fish sounds like a David Blaine routine.  I don’t understand it fully, but here are a few “take-away’s.”

  • When we accept Jesus’ invitation into His Kingdom by faith, we become children of God – “sons” in His words.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—” (John 1:12)

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! …” (1 John 3:1a)

  • The relationship we have with God  radically changes when we are received into His family.  He does not require a payment from us but, rather, provides for our needs as Our Father.  That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in Heaven…  Give us today our daily bread…”
  • As God’s children, to some extent we are exempt from many of the world’s rules and requirements.  Our citizenship is in Heaven.  Nevertheless, as we live on earth, it is right for us to peacefully submit to its taxes and rules, so as not to cause offense.  Jesus said that we are no longer “of the world” but that He sends us “into the world” to be “salt and light” in the world.  We are not obligated by the world’s rules, but submit to them voluntarily as a witness of our love for God.

Jesus frequently acted out His lessons to the disciples, and I think the coin in the fish’s mouth was an example of that.  I  don’t fully understand it, but like to “chew on it.”


Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


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