Death and Taxes

I am not thinking about the subject of death right now, but am about ready to do my taxes. If Mitt can get his out so can I! Matthew 17:24-27 is an interesting text describing Jesus as a tax payer. The payment of a yearly temple tax was established in Exodus 30 as being the responsibility of every Jewish male over twenty. The amount was a half-shekel or two Greek drachmas (didrachm) and was the equivalent of two days wages.  Tax booths were set up in every town and village from March 15-25th and if one failed to pay it then, they would have to pay it in Jerusalem before they were allowed to enter the temple for worship. It is interesting that tax collectors in this passage came up to Peter and asked whether Jesus had paid the tax. A visit from the IRS was not usually made and most likely indicated that they had a malicious intent perhaps seeking an excuse to turn Jesus in to the authorities. Peter assured them that Jesus did pay taxes and then went to Jesus and told him of the audit. Jesus said to Peter (actually, he called him Simon and only called him Peter one time in the Gospels- did you know that?), “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes- from their sons or from others?” Peter replied, “From others.” And then Jesus said “You’re right, their sons are exempt.” He meant that if a king imposes taxes, he doesn’t impose them on his own family; since Jesus was the Son of the King (God), why should he pay taxes for His Father’s temple? In other words, Jesus was a “verifiable 501C3 tax-exempt charitable person.” However, Jesus then said “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 tax.” Wouldn’t it be cool to be commanded by Jesus to go fishing especially if you could tell your family “hey I’m going fishing to pay our taxes?”  Some people have entirely emptied out the miraculous by interpreting that all Jesus was telling Peter to do was to go fishing (what he did for a living), and sell enough fish to pay for their taxes. I figure that if Jesus was (is) the Son of God, and “in him and by him and for him all things were created,” he probably would have no problem being omniscient enough to know there was a scavenger fish lurking in the shallow water of the lake with a coin in its mouth. However, we should not overlook the real lesson here: Jesus did not have to pay the tax, but he chose to pay it lest he cause someone else to stumble. I’m not sure how Jesus could have caused the IRS agents to stumble unless, perhaps, it would give them just another reason not to believe in him. What does this passage teach me? To pay my taxes- yes, but even more- I think it challenges me never to use the freedom that I have as a Christian to set a bad example for others so as to add to the reasons why they do not believe in Jesus. How do you think that might be applied to you? Just a thought…

One thought on “Death and Taxes

  1. Debbie

    What a wonderful idea this is.Thank you! I look forward to your comments weekly in the Friday Briefing .This is an added bonus. What a blessing.

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