Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Peter and the Temple Tax

Matthew tells us of a time when the people who collected the tribute money for the temple asked Peter if Jesus paid tribute. This wasn’t a question concerning money. It concerned authority. You see, all the Jewish males over the age of 20 (see Ex. 30:13) were required to pay an annual temple tax of ½ shekel. This was used for upkeep of the temple and was considered an atonement offering for a person’s sin. But in the Savior’s day the Rabbis and priests claimed they were already holy and had no sin so they didn’t need to pay the tax.

Peter told the tax collectors that Jesus paid the tax, but when Peter and Jesus went into a house, Jesus rebuked Peter and asked him who the kings of the earth got their tribute money from—their children or strangers (Matthew 17:25). Peter answered that they received it from strangers. The Savior explained that the children were then free from taxes.

The lesson Jesus was teaching is that He was free from paying the tax on His Father’s house both because He was the Son and because He was free from sin. However, he told Peter that in order to not offend he should go fishing and that he would catch a fish with money in its mouth which he should use to pay the tax for both himself and Jesus.

This is an interesting miracle. Jesus has just proclaimed himself to Peter as the Son of God. Now as Peter obeys the given instructions, he learns that when obeying the Son of God his needs are met. Likewise when we follow the Son of God our needs are often met miraculously just as they were for Peter. There is absolutely no logic or reason to how it happens. We pay our tithing first and somehow there is enough left to pay our bills. We serve the Lord first and somehow the time stretches out to allow us to do the other necessary things of life. When we put the Lord first, we have sufficient for our needs.

But there is something else that is interesting here. Jesus could have provided the money in any number of ways. But Peter is a fisherman and so Jesus tells him to go fish. Jesus tells him to go work at what he does. It is ordinary, and yet not. Jesus didn’t provide the tax by having Peter win the Readers Digest Sweepstakes. There is no get rich quick scheme involved. Instead Peter just goes about doing what he does, and his needs are met.

This account says to me that when we try our best within the realms of our own power—we do what we do whether it is to be a carpenter, fisherman, accountant, nurse, or teacher—miraculously our needs will be provided if we keep the commandments and follow the Heavenly King.


Amy said...

Thanks. That was beautiful.

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Amy, Thank you. It is always nice to hear from you!

Becky Rose said...

great! Love the simplicity of this. Just keep on keeping on and he will make it more.

Sherrie Mills Johnson said...

Becky, YES! It is so simple and yet so beautiful! Ready to teach seminary? You are going to be great!