Do You Know What To Do With A Miracle?
Matthew 17: 24 – 27 AMP
24 When they arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel [temple tax] went up to Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the half-shekel?” 25 Peter answered, “Yes.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly rulers collect duties or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt [from taxation]. 27 However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take it and give it to them [to pay the temple tax] for you and Me.”
The tax spoken of here was not decreed by the Roman government. It was first mentioned in Exodus 30:11 – 16. The Lord spoke to Moses and directed that every male 20 years of age and older was to pay the tax, probably annually. In Moses’ day the funds were to service the Tabernacle or the Tent of Meeting. In Jesus’ time the tax was to support the Jewish temple. So, the tax was instituted by God and it was for legitimate purposes.
Before Peter broached the subject of the unpaid tax, Jesus brought it up first. Know this – - whatever is troubling you, Jesus already knows about it and He has the solution.
Notice that those who collected the tax were keeping track of Jesus’ payments. At the time they were questioning Peter, his temple tax hadn’t been paid either. But these tax collectors don’t mention what Peter owed. They also didn’t have nerve enough to confront Jesus directly. To his credit, Peter didn’t argue with these harassing cowards. When they asked if Jesus wasn’t in the habit of paying the tax, they already knew the answer. They were keeping track. The enemy will try to rush and push people to worry about something that is not even on the horizon. The enemy will try to needle a person about a bill that isn’t due for six months. He wants to clutter our minds and drain our energies by suggesting we fret and worry about all kinds of things. He will tell you the mole on your leg looks different today than it did last week and it’s probably cancer. But we know the devil is a liar and the truth is not in him.
When Peter came into the house Jesus addressed the matter by asking him a question.
“What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly rulers collect duties or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?”
Jesus was not disturbed at all by this situation which seemed very pressing to Peter. Have you ever been going along in life, minding your own business, focused on what you are planning to do next? And somebody, seemingly out of nowhere, brings up a question or makes an assumption or levies an accusation that clouds the rest of your day. You are blindsided by this topic that they hit you with. Your plans for the next few minutes, days or weeks had nothing to do with what they were talking about. You were on track and focused. Now, after they dropped this bomb, you feel like you have to rearrange your thoughts and actions to try to deal with this matter. It is distracting and disheartening. It causes a person to feel anxious, sullen and discouraged. Then the enemy is jumping up and down and clapping his hands because his mission has been accomplished.
But God! Praise the Lord! But God!
Jesus HAS the answer and He IS the answer! When Jesus asked Peter, “Who do earthly rulers collect taxes from their children or from strangers?” Peter answered correctly, “Strangers.” The point that Jesus made is that He, Jesus, is Lord of the temple. He does not need to pay tax and neither do those who belong to Him because they are His sons. A modern-day example would be that the owner of a restaurant does not charge his own kids, his own household, to eat there. The following verses explain Jesus’ superiority over everything.
Colossians 1: 16 - 18 AMP
16 For by Him all things were created in heaven and on earth, [things] visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [that is, by His activity] and for Him. 17 And He Himself existed and is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [His is the controlling, cohesive force of the universe.] 18 He is also the head [the life-source and leader] of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will occupy the first place [He will stand supreme and be preeminent] in everything.
Even though Jesus was absolutely correct and He had the right not to pay the tax, He paid it. It wasn’t worth offending those who cared (the tax collectors). Jesus could have justified His right and exercised His authority and refused to pay the tax. But instead He demonstrated wisdom and humility and submitted Himself to a law from which He was exempt. It is hard to win over people that we have offended. Offense has a long memory and a short tolerance. Sometimes we just need to let people have their say and offer no argument, no resistance. They asked Peter, “Doesn’t your Master pay the tax?” Peter didn’t raise a ruckus or become indignant that they were suggesting that Jesus might not be a citizen in good standing in the Jewish community. Peter just said, “Yes.” He didn’t jump up and down lamenting that the ministry treasury was low and there weren’t enough funds to pay the tax. He didn’t moan and beg for an extension. Peter maintained his integrity and his composure. We need to remember to do that too.
Even though this conversation with the tax collectors had Peter feeling forlorn, the issue in question was a really easy fix for Jesus. Whatever you might be wrestling with internally is an easy fix for the Master. The verses in Colossians verify that everything is under His jurisdiction. You have nothing to fear.
Peter didn’t want to be viewed as a person who refused to obey the financial requirement. We support the local house of worship where we are fed because we love our God. We also choose to participate in the upkeep of the property because that is a practical and necessary thing to do. It would be ungodly to allow the place where we gather to worship to fall into disrepair and ruin. That would not be a good representation of our Father or a positive reflection of us, His children. Peter also did not want people to think negatively about Jesus. Peter was concerned about something that was not difficult for Jesus to resolve. But participating in the solution, in the miracle did require following specific instructions.
Reread Matthew 17:24 – 27 and note the following instructions.
- Go to the sea. Go to the specified location. Don’t go somewhere else and don’t send someone else.
- Throw in a hook. Use the stated equipment, method and tools. Don’t use a basket, a net or your hands if the Lord said to throw in a hook.
- Take the first fish that comes up. Don’t insert your own logic that this fish is too big, too small, the wrong color, doesn’t smell right or it is not the type of fish expected.
- Open its mouth. Don’t gut the fish, fillet the fish, cut off the tail, don’t sell the fish or eat the fish. The fish did what it was supposed to do. It is likely that the fish was to be put back in the water and was blessed to live a long, happy life.
- Take the coin. Jesus did not say to take the fish. He only said to take the coin. As mentioned before, it is quite possible the fish was to be placed back in the water to swim away joyfully.
- Give the coin to the tax collectors. Don’t give the coin to a messenger and send that person to the tax collectors. Don’t use the money for some other purpose even if it seems like a worthy or a more pressing cause.
- Pay the tax for both of us. Don’t pay the tax for one of us and get the change back.
Sometimes when God gives the “whole” answer people only apply “half” the principles or a fraction of the instructions. When the Lord supplies the means to pay the entire electric bill, pay the whole bill! Don’t just pay the past due amount and then have to finagle and fret to pay the rest later. The value of the coin was the exact amount needed to satisfy the need for both men for an entire year! Following instructions relaxes difficult circumstances. Not following instructions compounds the original issue.
Obeying instructions demonstrates:
- Humility. When we don’t know what to do and the Lord offers a solution that does not make natural sense, we have to humble ourselves and follow what He said.
- Maturity. Immaturity follows feelings and emotions. Maturity trusts the Lord.
- Wisdom. Knowing who to listen to and who to ignore requires wisdom. Listen to God. Ignore the devil.
- Self-control. Most of us have been faced with a dilemma that seemed not to have a workable solution. We might feel like jumping ship, throwing in the towel or doing something destructive, illegal, immoral or cowardly. It takes discipline to be able to keep a calm and spirit-directed mind.
One of the greatest benefits of doing what the Lord says is that it makes us free. There is liberty in obedience! If we follow all of the Lord’s directives, then He is responsible for all of the outcome! If we tamper with His plan, He is released from providing the results. I would rather have His results than mine!
When God provides the miracle, the solution, the answer…do you know what to do with it? Peter did exactly what he was told to do. He didn’t fry the fish or cash the coin. He didn’t do 50% of the plan and hold the rest of the money for another purpose. It is necessary to have already purposed in our hearts and minds that we will do as the Lord says, when He says and the way He says. That way, when we are blessed to participate in a miracle, as Peter was, we will not succumb to temptation to misuse the miracle.