Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Fish and the Shekel

One day, the apostle Peter was approached by a tax collector. The man asked Peter if Jesus was in fact paying the temple tax. Peter said that he was.

When Peter returned to the place where Jesus was staying, the Lord turned the episode into a teaching lesson and then a great miracle (one that is easily overlooked, if you aren't paying attention).

"What do you think Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?"

"From strangers," was Peter's response.

"Then the sons are exempt. 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 that and give it to them for you and Me."

What's this? Did Jesus just say to pay the tax - and to find that money in a fish?

Puzzling stuff. Odd for that matter. Yet all the while, vintage Jesus.

Amazing as that miracle was - which no doubt underscored Jesus' soveriegn control over all - He teaches an interesting lesson.

We can clearly see that Jesus was saying this: tax collectors get their money from strangers - not their sons and daughters. While at the same time, a correlation can be made that those who are sons and daughters of the heavenly King (Jesus) are exempt from paying their "tax" (wages of sin is death) through Christ.

But what about this statement?

"However, so that we do not offend them..."

Was Jesus really concerned about offending a tax collector? Was Jesus so concerned about how others felt that he wouldn't confront them with the truth?

Probably not.

But, what he may have been concerned about was removing any obstacle or "tool" of rebuke which may have caused the unbeliever to stumble in their acceptance of Himself as the Son of God. Imagine the whispers in the crowds:

"He is truly amazing. He casts out demons, heals the lame and even forgives sin!..."

"But I heard that He won't pay the temple tax."


The apostle Paul too tried to remove any stumbling block that an unbeliever might have in hearing the gospel account by his witness. He spent much of his ministry as a tent-maker and paid much of his expenses as he preached from city to city - thereby removing any chance for people to say, "He's only doing it for the money."

Lord, like Paul, help us to remove those "obstacles" which may be hindering our witness. Though we are yet to be perfected, help to keep us above reproach, for your namesake. Thank you.

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