Why Did Jesus Pay Taxes with a Coin from the Mouth of a Fish?
Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught. This is a story of a fish everyone would like to catch, but there's more to it than paying a tax bill.
When Jesus called Peter to be his disciple, Peter was busy fishing with his brother Andrew. "Follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." Peter knew how to catch fish, but Jesus would teach him how to bring people into his kingdom.
I wonder whether Jesus' eyes twinkled when he told Peter to cast a hook without bait into the sea, catch a fish, take money out of its mouth and pay the temple tax (Matthew 17:24-27).
"I don't know why Jesus told Peter to find the coin in the mouth of a fish," says Barrett, age 12. "Maybe he likes fish."
Barrett, I think Jesus liked eating fish because he multiplied a little boy's two fish and five loaves to feed 5,000 people. But I don't think Jesus ate the fish that Peter caught.
All true Southerners will be glad to know the coin-bearing fish was a catfish, according to the New Testament Greek word. Under Jewish law, any fish without scales could not be eaten.
Kendall, 12, says Jesus told Peter to go fishing "because he wanted to pay his temple tax and Peter's. Peter had to have faith, and so do we."
Peter's faith was tested because Jesus told him how to fish, which was his area of expertise. It's often our strengths rather than our weaknesses that keep us from depending on the Lord. Even land lovers know fish don't swim around with coins in their mouths.
Sam, 7, gets to the heart of the matter: "Jesus didn't want to hurt the feelings of the tax collectors."
Kings' sons are exempt from paying taxes, so Jesus was not obligated to pay a tax to a temple belonging to his Father. But Jesus paid it anyway. By paying the tax with money delivered by a catfish, Jesus avoided one reason someone might have used to reject him.
As the Scripture predicted, Jesus became a rock of offense over which many stumbled. Under the Old Testament law, anyone who hung on a tree was cursed. Jesus committed no sin, yet he hung on a cross, or tree, to bear the curse of sin for us.
Jesus paid the temple tax so that even the hated tax collectors would have the opportunity to accept him as their rock of salvation. As Jesus told John the Baptist, "Blessed is he who is not offended because of me."
Wise generals pick their battles. Sometimes, we need to give up our rights in order to avoid unnecessary offense. As ambassadors for Christ, our mindset should be about advancing God's kingdom rather than exercising our rights.
God is concerned about justice, but it's often through the sufferings from injustice that people see his grace in action. Remember, Jesus allowed himself to be crucified by evil people when he suffered on our behalf to pay the price for our sins.
Think about this: All your rights belong to God.
Memorize this truth: "I have made myself a servant to all that I might win the more." (I Corinthians 9:19)
Ask this question: Is God asking you to give up rights on a small issue so that you can share the good news that eternal life is a gift received by faith alone in Christ alone?
Carey Kinsolving is a syndicated columnist, producer, author, speaker and website developer. To see more material like this, visit www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org. The Kids Talk About God website contains free, online content for children and families. See Carey’s Kid TV Interviews. Print free lessons from the "Kids Color Me Bible" and make your own book. Let an 11-year-old girl take you on a trip around the world in the Mission Explorers Streaming Video. Print Scripture verses illustrated by child artists. Receive a complimentary, weekly e-mail subscription to our Devotional Bible Lessons.
Bible quotations in this Bible lesson are from the New King James Version.
Copyright 2006 Carey Kinsolving