Summary: Jesus demonstrated that there are times when it is better to not insist on being "right" in peripheral things, even if it means choosing to set aside a freedom in Christ to avoid causing unnecessary stumbling blocks to faith in the Gospel and to build up our brethren for the sake of love, which is of infinitely greater value.
Text: Mt 17:24-27; 22:15-22
Scripture Reading: 1 Pet 3:13-17
1. Less than a month away - - - - tax time!
a. Many of you already have it out of the way
b. Isn't it the highlight of your year?
c. Some countries, income tax is over 70%!
2. In the history of our country, taxes were a sensitive subject
a. The crown taxed one thing after another
b. After the Stamp Act of 1765, the outcry was, "No taxation without
representation" - Was a revolutionary idea at the time
c. Finally, with the Tea Act of 1773, colonists responded by throwing all
the imported tea into Boston Harbor
d. Finally led to military response and a war in 1775
3. Taxes still a sore subject even today are they not?
a. Most with fiscal sense don't believe you can spend your way into
b. Many think taxes are too high, and it is not used efficiently
c. Many believe there is no enough oversight how it is used
4. Miracle story today is connected to taxes
a. Touches on a larger issue - Our relationship with the world
I. (Mt 17:24-27) The Temple Tax
A. Some things to point out
1. This is not an imperial tax at this time
a. Didn't even call it a "tax," but the "two-drachma"
b. Pharisees believed that Ex 30:11-16 set the precedent
- Everyone 20 years and older to give
- It was called an "atonement price"
c. But not everyone interpreted it the same way
- Pharisees made this an annual contribution
- Essenes did it only once in a lifetime
- Others believed it only applied to Moses' time for the
tabernacle, not the temple
2. Jews considered this a lwdg-hwxm Great Commandment
a. History - Gentiles opposed to Jews collecting this tax
- Said it constituted a tax collected for foreign nation
- Taxes supposed to be for Rome
- Said that Jews not have right to do this
b. Incident in North Africa as an example
- Greeks persecuted Jews over this tax
- Greeks seized their money
- Delegation was sent to Rome over this
- Then Agrippa sent letter to the city leaders -
"Augustus said not to block this collection"
c. This tax became a matter of national pride
- Jews had to fight to collect this tax for temple
- Was collected from Jews all over the world
- Sent to Jerusalem for temple and related facilities
d. Now you understand why they asked, "You teacher does
pay the 2 drachma does he not?"
- Greek syntax expects an affirmative answer
- If he is a good, patriotic Hebrew, he would do this
- Peter answers - "Yes, of course he does!"
3. Jesus' response: Kings collect taxes from strangers, not sons
a. Jesus is God's son, so he is exempt
b. Jesus uses plural, "sons," seems to include disciples
c. Implication is astounding
- Suggests the rest of the Jews not children of God
- So, only those who follow Christ are children of God
- Eph 1:5 - Adopted as sons of God through Christ
- Gal 4:4 - God sent his son to redeem us so that we
can be adopted as sons of God
4. Jesus chose to pay the tax anyway
a. Money came from a miracle - Coin in fish's mouth
b. Why? So we don’t "offend" them
- Greek - skandalizw - To give offense, shock, cause
to stumble, to repel someone, to cause opposition
- Not want to create scandal as barrier to faith
c. Mt 18:6-7 - Woe to those who cause stumbling block
- Better to be tied to millstone & cast in sea
- Causing someone to stumble is serious
C. Jesus demonstrates a personality trait
1. ILL: Ever had a temperament or personality test?
a. One of traits they measure - Being right vs. being nice
b. Some would rather be right than nice & vice-versa
c. The text measures challenge areas
2. Jesus demonstrated that at times is better to be nice than right
a. He could have insisted that he was exempt & not paid
b. Would have been correct, but at what cost?
- Might have preserved his pride, but at what cost?
- Would have shown he was right they were wrong
c. Result would have been needlessly creating a scandal,
obstacle to faith for those following him
3. To avoid causing needless offense, he paid the it
a. We see same attitude in Paul - 1 Cor 9:19f
b. For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a
slave to all, so that I may win more.
c. I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all
means save some, I do all things for the sake of the
d. This was a conscious choice exemplified in Christ himself
4. If choice is to win an argument or win a heart, which is better?
a. "You may be able to shoot the eyes out of an opponents
arguments and destroy it, but at the end of the day when the smoke clears, what matters is not the number of bodies laying in the street, but the number of knees kneeling at the cross."
b. Not have to prove self right on every minute point if it
going to cause someone to stumble
D. We learn a couple of things with this miracle
1. Obvious lesson - Jesus is the Son of God
a. Performed a miracle
b. He is exempt from taxes, being God's son
2. Character trait - Not have to be right 100% of the time
3. Particularly when it becomes a stumbling block
4. If choice is to
a. Win an argument vs. win a heart - Which is better?
b. What did Christ do?
A. Their question was not looking for guidance, but to discredit him
1. Taxes were a sensitive subject
a. Because of what was on the coin to pay this tax
- It had the image of Caesar on it
- Latin - Tiberius Caesar, Son of the divine Augustus
- Back side - "Pontifex Maximus" - High Priest
- Claimed Caesar was a god, this was idolatry
b. Because of that this tax represented
- It was called a "tribute"
- Function as sign of allegiance, respect, submission
- Only allowed to use this coin for this tax
- This tax reminded them they belong to Rome
c. Jews known to riot over this
- They supposed to belong to Yahweh, not Rome
- They despised Roman money
= They allowed mint own coins to keep peace
= But imperial tribute to be Roman denarius
2. Tried to put Jesus between rock and hard place
a. If he answered no - Could report him as a rebel to Rome
b. If he said yes - Lose his following with the Jewish crowds
- They looking for coming Messiah to deliver them
- They resented being Roman subjects
- Would see Jesus as another Roman puppet
B. Jesus' answer
1. Whose face on the denarius?
a. Caesar's image - He minted it in honor of himself
b. So, give to Caesar the things that are Caesar's
2. Then, he added - Give to God the things that are God's
a. Coin is minted by Caesar in Caesar's image
b. YOU minted by God in God's image!
c. You have been redeemed, purchased by blood of lamb
3. What a contrast
a. Caesar's, even with his image on it, will rust and fail
b. You, with the image of God, will endure to eternal life
4. Our real tribute is to God, and is not money, but ourselves
a. Ps 24:1 - Earth is the Lord's and all it contains
b. God created you
c. God redeemed you, not with gold, but blood of son
d. Most valuable thing to God is YOU
C. Don't misunderstand, this not a divided loyalty (Rom 13:1-7)
1. Principle - All authority is God's authority
a. Nothing happens outside of God's authority
b. God either permits it, or causes it
c. This includes whoever is on the throne/ in office
2. Principle - Honor authority
a. This is part of honoring God
b. This written in about 57 AD - Nero was on the throne
- He was a pagan
- He bankrupted Rome
- Persecuted falsely accused Christians of the fire in
Rome and tortured them
c. Regardless, Paul said to honor the office, do duty
3. I debated on whether to include this passage in this sermon
a. Only connection between these two passages is taxes
b. Lessons are different in these two passages
- Temple Tax - Paid tax to keep others from stumbling
- Imperial Tax - Pay in order to honor authority, but
realize you belong to God
c. Sermons supposed to have one main point
d. But there is a connection between these passages
4. (Rom 13:8) Our true debt, tribute - Love
a. Continue reading about how this applies in Rom 14
b. (Rom 14:13-15) Don't hurt brothers faith with your
freedom/rights in Christ
- If brother mistaken about limits of freedom, God
- Don't force your freedom on him and cause him to
c. (Rom 14:18-20) If serve Christ in this way, you are
acceptable to God and approved by men
d. Our true debt is not taxes, but to love
- Christ did not insist on his rights for sake of love
- He was unjustly convicted, but did so willingly for us
- We should have the same spirit as Christ
D. Principle - Choose to set aside my freedoms in Christ to build up
1. This principle applies to outsiders as in the temple tax
a. Wanted to promote a hearing of the Gospel
b. To avoid causing listeners to stumble, he paid it
c. He focused not on, "my rights" but on their salvation
2. This principle applies to the brethren
a. Don't insist on "my rights" if it will hurt or destroy a
b. Focus is on promoting peace and edification
c. We consider others before we consider ourselves
3. If faced with choice, which is the better choice?
a. Do I choose to be right, or be nice?
b. Do I choose my rights, or your edification?
c. Do I choose my freedom, or your salvation?
d. Do I choose what makes me comfortable, happy, or on
what is good for others?
4. Rom 13 - If I serve Christ in this way, I am acceptable to God
and approved by men
a. Not talking about compromising foundation of our faith
b. Gal 1:8 Bible has strong words for those who try to lead
people astray with a different Gospel, says accursed
c. There is only one Gospel, one God, one Savior, one Bible
d. Talking about things that can cause people to stumble
and put a barrier to hearing the Gospel and faith
1. Have you heard the Gospel? (inv)
2. Applying this principle of avoiding stumbling blocks to faith takes wisdom and discernment
3. Don't shy away from dialogue about God and the Gospel, Jesus didn't
a. We need to be confident about our faith in Christ
b. People looking for guidance not listen to something wishy washy
c. Jesus said I am the way, truth, and life - Very definite statement
d. If I am confident in my faith in Christ, it not threatened by
disagreements, especially on peripheral matters, like paying taxes
4. So don't be shy about spiritual conversations, but do so in spirit of Christ
a. Don't shut it down by being overbearing or pompous
b. (1 Pet 3:15)