Summary: What we have in this story is an account of Jesus paying tribute money. He is in Capernaum, which is His headquarters, and where he lived most of the time. The “temple tax” was collected annually, from every Jew over twenty, for the support of the templ
Lesson: Taxes Paid
Moses is the one who began the practice of collecting taxes. He ordered that a tax should be levied against the Israelites, so much a head, to support the tabernacle. Jesus also paid tribute money, to keep from offending His enemies, even though He gave a good reason why He should be excused. The first chapter of Exodus describes the tax which God instructed Moses to collect from the people. In the thirtieth chapter of Exodus is recorded God’s instructions to Moses. There it says, “And Jehovah said to Moses, ‘Whenever you take a census of the people of Israel, each man who is numbered shall give a ransom to the Lord for his soul, so that there will be no plague among the people when you number them. His payment shall be half a dollar. All who have reached their twentieth birthday shall give this offering. The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less, for it is an offering to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves. Use this money for the care of the Tabernacle; it is to bring you, the people of Israel, to the Lord's attention, and to make atonement for you." Ex 30:11-16 (Living)
Numbering, or counting the men of Israel was usually associated with military service and warfare. That is what happened in the twentieth chapter of Judges, “And the children of Benjamin were numbered at that time out of the cities twenty and six thousand men that drew sword, beside the inhabitants of Gibeah, which were numbered seven hundred chosen men. Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss. And the men of Israel, beside Benjamin, were numbered four hundred thousand men that drew sword: all these were men of war” (Judges 20:15-17 (KJV). At the age of twenty a man could begin to serve as a soldier. It says in Numbers, “From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies” (Num 1:3 (KJV). The numbering reflected the equality of rich and poor in their standing before God, and it reminded the people of their dependence on the Lord, rather than upon numerical strength; and it also reminded them of their responsibility to take care of the house of God. The rich were not to give more, nor the poor less, to indicate that the souls of the rich and poor are equally precious, and that God is no respecter of persons. Peter stated that publicly, after the resurrection. “Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34 (KJV). Remember, you are ransomed; you were purchased with a price, a price which was paid by Jesus. They were not redeemed by paying money, and we are not either. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19 (KJV). But by paying the annual half-shekel, they were reminded of what God had done for them. The silver collected was used in building the tabernacle, and to make the sockets for the posts of the tabernacle. In other offerings, men were to give according to their ability; but this offering must be the same for all; because the rich have as much need of Christ as the poor, and the poor are as welcome to him as the rich. They both contributed the same amount to the maintenance of the temple-service, because both were to have a similar interest in it, and both classes would benefit from it. Now, let’s look at what Mathew wrote about how Jesus felt about this tax.
When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” (Matthew 17:24)
What we have in this story is an account of Jesus paying tribute money. He is in Capernaum, which is His headquarters, and where he lived most of the time. The “temple tax” was collected annually, from every Jew over twenty, for the support of the temple, and it was not a Roman tax; it was a Jewish tax. The tax was a very small sum, but those men who collected it stood in awe of Christ, because of His mighty works, and they didn’t dare to speak to him about it. Instead, they asked Peter, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” Listen to Peters reply.