2004-01-08 - Choose Your Battles
Matt 17:24-27 And when they had come to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter, and said, "Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?" 25 He said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?" 26 And upon his saying, "From strangers," Jesus said to him, "Consequently the sons are exempt. 27 "But, lest we give them offense, 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 stater. Take that and give it to them for you and Me." (NAS)
Peter is confronted by men assigned the task of collecting the tax that supported the Temple. From Jesus' description of sons vs. strangers we learn that royalty was not expected to pay this tax. The sons of the earthly kings were exempt from paying the poll-tax. Jesus, as the Son of God, would have been lawfully exempt from paying the poll-tax. This is apparently a battle Jesus chooses not to fight. If God owns the cattle on a thousand hills then grudging the Temple two drachmas could be viewed as being cheap. And refusal to pay could easily create a fight that could cloud the mission of spreading the good news.
Jesus stretches Peter. He sends him off to fish from the shore. He promises that when Peter throws in his hook from the shore Peter will catch a fish. The fish will be large enough to have a starter, a coin worth four drachmas, stuck in its mouth indicating that the fish will not be small. When fishing from the shore catching anything but smaller fish is unusual. And to top it all off, it will be the first fish Peter catches. There is no indication that Peter argued at all. He may have wondered, but if he did he kept quiet about it and Jesus honored that silence. Miraculously the fish is caught and the coin is found in its mouth as Jesus promised.
The coin paid the Temple tax for both Jesus and Peter. It prevented what could have been a fire storm of controversy over a fairly trivial matter. If anyone had the right to decline to pay the tax it was Jesus. And yet for the sake of His mission He ended the issue quietly with a single coin. It was not worth jeopardizing the message of the good news being buried under the chaff of scandal over His own rights in such a small matter.
It is an important lesson is choosing our battles. The American population overall is extremely concerned with "my rights". It gets to the point where "I don't care about your rights. Me first!" is an all too common cry. This primary mission is to live a life that calls to others. If we allow tiny issues, like pebbles in a wagon, to rattle and obscure the message then the message is lost. The priceless message is worth far more than two drachmas.
Grace & Peace,