Summary: Jesus teaches us to do the right thing because it is the right thing.
A Messiah Who Does the Right Thing
Text: Matt. 17:24-27
1. Illustration: There is the story of a taxpayer who needed to ease his conscience. "A taxpayer wrote to the Internal Revenue Service, "I have not been able to sleep well for two years. Here is my check for $1,200 for back taxes." He even signed his name, then added a short P.S. "If I don’t sleep better in a week, I will send you another $1,200. He had to do something to relieve his guilt, but he didn’t want to do too much". (Roy B. Zuck, The Speaker’s Quote Book, 182-183).
2. One of the most important lessons we learn has to do with ethics - doing the right thing.
3. In all circumstance we need to do the right thing because...
a. People Watch What We Do
b. It's the Right Thing
c. God Will Provide
4. Read Matt. 17:24-27
Proposition: Jesus teaches us to do the right thing because it is the right thing.
Transition: We should do the right thing because...
I. People Watch What We Do (24-25a).
A. Pay the Temple Tax
1. One of the most difficult and challenging aspects of the Christian life is the fact that unbelievers are always watching and waiting for us to fail.
a. They watch what we say.
b. They watch what we do.
c. They watch where we go.
d. The minuet that they catch us making a mistake they are right there to say, "I thought you were a Christian."
e. The problem is that we are still human and we will make mistakes, but on the other hand, maybe they are actually helping us to practice what we preach.
2. We can expect this because that is exactly how they treated Jesus.
a. The religious elite were just looking for something to use against Him.
b. They tried to trap Him with something he said.
c. They tried to trap Him based on who he hung out with.
d. They tried to trap Him by twisting His own teaching and tried to use it against Him.
e. The problem was that Jesus was beyond reproach.
f. He always knew the right thing to say, and above all, He always did the right thing.
3. Our text today demonstrates this. Matthew tells us, "On their arrival in Capernaum, the collectors of the Temple tax came to Peter and asked him, 'Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?'”
a. Free adult Jewish men all over the ancient world showed their solidarity with the temple and the Holy Land by paying a half-shekel tax; in New Testament times this was two drachmas (as here), or two days’ wages.
b. After 70 AD, in Matthew’s time, the Romans confiscated this tax for the upkeep of a pagan temple, and some Jews may have refused to pay it on principle; but in Jesus’ day, any Jew loyal to Judaism would have paid it (Keener, IVP Bible Background Commentary – New Testament).
c. This incident was recorded only by Matthew. Perhaps as a former tax collector he was particularly interested is this affair.
d. Because Jesus spent a great deal of time outside of Capernaum, those collecting the temple tax had no idea of Jesus' attitude toward the practice (Horton, 369).
e. The grammatical structure of the question indicates that these temple tax agents are attempting to elicit an affirmative response: "He does pay the tax, doesn’t he?"
f. This may mask an attempt to trap Jesus in a contemporary debate among the religious leaders about who should pay the tax.
g. These representatives from the temple establishment may have been attempting, to confirm charges of Jesus’ disloyalty to the temple (Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: Matthew, 599).
4. Peter, knowing that Jesus was a man of integrity, responds without hesitation, “Yes, he does,”
a. Peter assumed that Jesus had already paid the tax.
b. In fact, he didn't even bother to ask Jesus, but drew his own conclusions based on his own opinion.
c. He knew His teacher, His Messiah, always did the right thing because it was the right thing.
B. People's Opinions
1. Illustration: A man who had a high opinion of himself stepped on a coin-operated scale that dispensed a card, givinghis weight and comments about his personality. After reading the card, he handed it to his wife and said, “Here, look at this!” She took it and read aloud, “You are dynamic, a born leader, handsome, and much admired by women for your personality.” Giving it a second look, she added, “Hmmm, I see it’s got your weight wrong too!"
2. What other people think does matter.
a. 1 Peter 2:12 (NLT)
Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.