How one disciple paid his taxes.

Sometimes we promise more that our friends want to deliver.

“Of course he’ll buy you supper.”

“Of course we can help you move next Tuesday.”

“Of course he likes t-shirts with funny sayings.”

“Of course he pays the temple tax.”

The temple tax?

Yes. Everyone over 20 in Israel was counted. When they were counted, they paid a tax, a ransom for their lives. This money was used to pay for temple operations.

God told Moses how it worked.

One day a tax collector asked Peter whether Jesus paid this tax. Peter said, “of course.”

Peter never stopped to think about whether Jesus ought to. He never stopped to think, “Wait, he keeps saying that he’s God, why would God have to pay temple tax? That would be like paying to walk in and out of your own home.”

Jesus calls Peter on it. He explains why he shouldn’t have to pay the tax. He tells Peter where he will find a coin to pay the tax for both Peter and Jesus. He sends Peter fishing.

Just because Jesus rescues Peter, however, doesn’t mean that he approves of what Peter did. He may just want to make life simpler for the tax collectors, people he demonstrated care for.

We act like Peter.

Do we say, “Of course God will do that,” without thinking about the fact that God may not want to. There may be consequences we don’t know about. There may be issues we haven’t seen. God may be unwilling to do the thing that seems so obvious to us.

There are times that we need to stop talking and listen. There are times, when asked a question, we must learn to say, “God, what do you think?”

There are times when we shouldn’t depend on coins in fishes’ mouths.

6 thoughts on “How one disciple paid his taxes.

  1. josephruizjr

    I need to do this regularly – thanks Jon Come to think of it I need to START doing this, regularly.


  2. Rich Dixon

    I get the part about not making promises for God, but was that Jesus’ point?

    Seems like He validated Peter’s promise by teaching about upholding social responsibilities even when there’s no mandate from God to do the specific act, so we don’t become a distraction and turn people away from our witness.

    Maybe Peter said the right thing for the wrong reasons?


  3. Jill

    Okay…your question should have been answer when you typed the phrase…”Peter never stopped to think…” and right there, you would have your answer…and then, of course, you could replace the “Peter” with “Jill” or “Jon” or …

    Perhaps it’s a reminder that God didn’t create us to defend Him, He created us to worship Him, to tell His story, but not to defend Him as God. As I was thinking about this, I went to Philippians 1:16 that mentions “defense of the gospel”…I looked at commentaries and context to see if there was a way to make that say “defense of God” and there isn’t…no one even touches that phrase, because the focus is on the motivation behind the message.

    Interestingly, Rich, Philippians 1:18 picks up your question, and flips it, in theory, “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached”. The Truth is unavoidable, even when it is fumbled by the human mouth/thought process. Of course we don’t want to mislead people about the Truth, because there is penalty for that, but perhaps the coin in this story is like the “handicap” in a game of golf, where Jesus still allowed Peter to play the game, in spite of his mouth.

    Okay, that’s a lot of metaphors…I’m just processing this thought…

    I’m also working on the Jesus choosing his battles, as we do with children, knowing that bigger things lay ahead for Peter, and what part did this encounter play in Peter’s relationship with the Church and the Jews later?

    I thought blogs were supposed to have answers, not raise more questions…sigh.


    1. Jon Swanson

      wow, a wonderful string of metaphors, and thinking.

      I think that a lot of energy is spent on defending, and in that process we waste a lot of energy, a lot of us anyway. Explaining, exploring, examining are all helpful. But attacking isn’t so good. And defending so often moves into defensiveness.

      And I like your idea of picking battles, picking lessons. That works well.

      And I’m thinking that I could probably do more by raising more questions and conversation. Thanks for thinking so we can see and join with you.


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