Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

3rd Sunday after Shunoyo - the Festival of Assumption

The Temple Tax Issue

by Rev. Dr. V Kurian Thomas, Valiyaparambil

Next Sunday is the 3rd Sunday after Assumption.

Subject: The Temple Tax Issue

Gospel: St. Matthew 17: 24-27

"24After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-dragma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?". 25"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 sons or from others?" 26"From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. 27"But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."


Jesus and his disciples were in Capernaum, Peter's home town. There the tax collectors came to Peter. They then asked Peter, "Doesn't your teacher pay the tax?". This was the tax collected for the upkeep
of the Jerusalem temple. The money was used to support all the temple services.

This question from the tax collectors was probably a test to see how supportive was Jesus to the Temple services. Peter answered, "Yes." When he and Jesus were in the house away from the tax collectors, Jesus asked Peter, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of earth collect taxes, from their sons or from strangers?" There are kings on earth who run their kingdoms with money raised from taxes. Their taxes are collected not from the king's children, but from the rest of the citizens. The analogy pictures God as the king and the temple services as the running of the kingdom. This makes a comparison between king's sons and strangers.

Peter answers, "From strangers." That is, kings collect taxes from citizens who are not part of the royal family. Jesus said to Peter, "That's right, then the sons are exempt from taxes." Jesus says to Peter, "So that we don't want to offend them, give it to them for you and me." Jesus is the Lord of the temple, therefore did not owe tax. Jesus took this opportunity to teach what ought to be practically the right thing to do to avoid embarrassments. Jesus said, "So that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. When you open its mouth, you will find a coin. Take that and give it to them for your sake and mine."

In this example, Jesus shows us how to deal with a situation where we are conflicted with and don't know what to do. Regardless of what the right answer may be, do the thing that is necessary to avoid embarrassments. Sometimes the 'right' is less important than to maintain good relationships with others. It is not necessary to force our right on others when we know it will only damage our reputation or relationships in someone else's eyes.

See Also:

Sermons and Bible Commentary/Analysis for the 3rd sunday after Shunoyo

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