Have you ever tried to pay your dad taxes?
After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?"
“Yes, he does,” he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?”
“From others,” Peter answered.
“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him (Matthew 17:24-26).
Can you hear the tone? “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” Scorn.
Did Peter’s blood boil? Mine would.
“Yes, of course!” Did Peter spit it back and storm off? It doesn’t say. Maybe he did. Maybe he stormed into the house. Was it Jesus’ childhood home in Capernaum? Not sure.
But Jesus spoke first, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes – from their own children or others?”
“From others.” Bitterness. How it burned. These taxes. Aren’t Roman taxes enough? And pay temple tax on top of it all? “From others.” He must have spit the words out — not from their own —their own cadres were exempt.
But Jesus turned it around. He took a tired earthly story and turned it around. “The children are exempt.”
Did you hear that, Peter? The children are exempt. Not the cadres or the cronies or the buddies. Your Father is the King. Who does the King of Heaven collect taxes from? From His children? Or from others?
“The children are exempt.” How those words bring peace. We don’t have taxes to pay in His kingdom. We don’t have sacrifices to bring or penance to make to keep it all going. We’re exempt. Those that want to pay their own way will never be done — it is a lake that burns forever. But the children? They’re exempt and it's not unjust because the payer of it all was the King’s Son Himself, with Himself. This isn’t nepotism. It’s blood-bought grace.
What does that mean? For Peter, it meant a miracle. A fish, two coins, a debt paid so he could hear the lesson about the Kingdom. For us? It means that when we go to God, seeking rest or peace or comfort or forgiveness, He can give it to us. There is nothing barring our way. No angels taking collection. No guards at the door. No taxes are due from the children. We’re exempt.
So we can rest. Rest from our striving, rest from our trying to get it all right. Rest from the worry and the pressure and all the things we do to make God happy or others happy or our own standards happy.
What is that for you? For me, it was keeping my kids presentably dressed, my home clean, and for goodness’ sake, being on time. It was smiling when I should and not asking for help. It was white knuckling and not expecting a break. It looks different for all of us, friends. But we all slip into trying to pay our temple tax somehow. That’s ok. That’s why we’re called children. We don’t get it right all the time.
So here’s your reminder to rest. The children don’t have to pay.
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