June 18, 2021
Jesus said to him, "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" (Matthew 17:26-27).
In the conversation between Jesus and Peter regarding the payment of taxes, Jesus affirmed the sons of kings are exempt from taxes, as are the sons of the priests. But Jesus then affirmed to Peter that what taxes were required of anyone else would be paid by Jesus and His disciples, and that was to be done ‘without offense’.
The word ‘offend’ means to cause to stumble. It was the intention of Jesus to teach Peter that refusing what is required of the Jews and the citizens of the Roman Empire would cause others to think negatively of them; that Jesus and His disciples held the Temple and the Roman Empire in contempt. While it is true the Jews did hold the Roman Empire in contempt, it was also true the Jews highly regarded the Temple, the priesthood, and the Jewish system of worship. Therefore, to refuse to pay the ‘poll-tax’, which was levied upon the Jews by the Lord in Exodus 30:11-16, would have given the Jews cause to be offended by Him.
Not only did Jesus tell Peter to pay the required tax, but to do so willingly and without argument. Attitude is equally important to action. Regardless of how taxes are assessed and spent, those who benefit from the government, society, or public and private institutions should contribute to those entities for the personal benefits received and the extended benefits to the state and society.
If Jesus claimed exemption from the ‘poll-tax’ for Himself and the disciples, they would be despised by their fellow Jews and would be hunted down by the Romans. Because they did pay what was required, they become an example for all who follow Jesus to do their part in supporting the government and the ministries of the church. If Jesus was concerned about not being a stumbling block to non-believers over the issue of taxes, then we who are Christians should be equally concerned about that same attitude.
“Lord Jesus, remind me daily that my attitudes and my actions are to be pure before You and others, and that I am not to be a stumbling block to others on issues that have little or nothing to do with my personal faith in You. I know that being a Christian and standing for the Gospel is an offense to some, but that is an altogether different matter than not supporting the government based on religious grounds. Help me to be discerning and to be like Peter and John who said, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard’. To Your honor and glory I ask, Amen.”