Matthew 17:24-27
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter. They asked him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Certainly,” he answered. Peter went into the house. Before he could speak, Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the world collect fees or taxes? Is it from their family members or from other people?” “From other people,” Peter answered. Jesus said to him, “Then the family members are exempt. However, so that we don’t create a scandal, go to the sea and throw in a hook. Take the first fish that you catch. Open its mouth, and you will find a coin. Give that coin to them for you and me.”

Since the time when the tabernacle was constructed in the dessert, everyone at least 20 years old, rich or poor, was taxed one-fifth of an ounce of silver* to pay for its upkeep. So it was not an extraordinary thing to be asked to pay the temple tax. However, notice that they didn’t come to Jesus directly but to Peter. Perhaps it was because the temple collectors were intimidated by Jesus. After all, everytime the religious leaders had come at Jesus directly, he had made fools of them. Or more correctly, pointed out their foolishness. Once burned,twice shy, as the saying goes. Perhaps they came to Peter simply because it was his home where Jesus was a guest.

When Peter brought the matter to Jesus, Jesus gave his defense as to why he should be exempt from the tax but then, rather than create a scandal over a matter of little consequence, he made a way for it to be paid. He could simply have had it paid from the communal purse that Judas carried.** However, this was an individual tax and so it would not have been right to take from that purse. Jesus had no money of his own and so it was provided in an extraordinary way. And he not only provided for himself but also for Peter.

My takeaway from this account is, choose your battles. Stand firm on those that matter, but don’t sweat the small stuff. Choose to not participate in minor, unimportant arguments. I heard once that it is better to be proven kind than correct.

*Exodus 30:12-15

**John 13:29

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