January 14, 2016
I have the freedom to do what I like as a Christian. Yet, I also have the responsibility to not offend others. That’s essentially what Jesus taught Peter about the temple tax (Matthew 17:26-27).
Someone approached Peter about collecting the temple tax. This tax was assessed on every Jew to help pay for the expenses of the temple.
Jesus makes the point that taxes are not paid by family members but by strangers (Matthew 17:25-26). But so that others will not get upset, Jesus tells Peter to get some money out of the mouth of a fish he catches and pay the tax.
First, it just seems amazing to me that Jesus would talk to Peter about getting money from a fish like you and I would go to the bank and picking up cash. Jesus was so casual about it. Of course Jesus performed a miracle for that to happen. But Jesus wasn’t worried about the source of the money. He was more concerned that one didn’t offend certain religious convictions by others.
Now Jesus offended religious people all the time. He healed on the Sabbath. He ate with unclean hands. But in this case, Jesus was teaching an interesting lesson about freedom.
If you are child of God, you are not bound by religious structures. In the Old Testament, Moses was given the law that acted as a boundary to keep the people of Israel inside God’s structures. Much like a gated community, you lived within the borders. Stepping out of the borders meant you were out of God’s family.
Jesus comes along and says that the borders are not what you think they are. He is breaking those borders down – about class, gender, and what it means to be a follower of God.
In today’s terms, as Christians, we still live within denominational gated communities. Catholics have their communities, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Baptists, and other groups have ways of looking at Christianity.
Jesus tells us that since we are children of God, we have to freedom to explore the Christian faith outside of the denominational walls. However, we shouldn’t do it by offending others (Matthew 17:27).