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A CLOSER LOOK
HOMEPAGE


BIBLE PASSAGES
MATTHEW 17 (JESUS AND THE TAX)
ROMANS 13:1-5 THE POWER OF THE STATE
MATTHEW 22... JESUS AND TAX TO CAESAR


BIBLE TOPICS
DID JESUS FEAR THE CROSS?
OUR ROCK... JESUS OR PETER
BIBLICAL BASIS FOR LEADERSHIP


CHRISTIAN LIVING
WIVES AND MOTHERS... THEIR HIGH CALLING
DRAW THE LINE




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A CLOSER LOOK
MATTHEW 17 (JESUS AND THE TAX)

DID JESUS PAY TRIBUTE TO CAESAR?
Not In This Passage!


This following statement came up in a discussion concerning obedience to the State. It is typical of the faulty thinking in the modern church today.

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Jesus instructed Peter to go fishing so that His taxes would be paid, Jesus again teaches us obedience to the government that God has established over us.
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Matthew 17 is often used to prove that we ought to obey the State. It is argued that Jesus paid tax to Caesar and therefore, we should also. We certainly do have responsibilities to the State and for paying taxes, however, it cannot be proved by this passage. Read it and see why.

Now, as soon as you read my explanation some of you are going to be crying FOUL. But at least read it through before you do.

There is a principle which carries over into many different areas of our lives. It is simple, but essential. IF WORDS MEAN ANYTHING, THEY MEAN WHAT THEY SAY. In order to understand Mt.17 we need to know what words are being used and we need to know what those words mean. If we arbitrarily define words, they end up being useless.

I am one who believes that the three languages of the Scriptures are Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. I believe that we need to go to the Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic in order understand the Scriptures fully. I know that sounds super basic to some of you, but you have to understand, I know people who believe that the KJV 1611 is as good as it gets. If you are one of those who believes that the KJV 1611, or any reasonable facsimile thereof, is the ultimate revelation of God then you have already written me off. If that is the case, let me know. I am as open and honest with you as I know how to be, and I hope you will be with me also. The reason I mention this is because we need to look at the Greek in order to understand this passage correctly.

The Event

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"And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
He saith, Yes..."
(Matthew 17:24-25)
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"Tribute" is the word used to represent the tax which is in question here. From the English this seems to be the same word Matthew used in verse 25 and 22:17-21. It is not. It must not be interpreted as the same. The tax in Mt.17:24 is a religious or Temple tax which was placed upon Jewish men for the support of the Temple. The origin and destination of the Temple tax and Caesar's tax were different. The people involved were different people. The amounts to be paid were different. The coins used for the payment were different. The Temple tax had nothing to do with Caesar and Caesar's Tribute tax had nothing to do with the Temple tax. It is as simple as that.

Though this was a voluntary tax, it was expected of men to pay it. Since they were in Peter's hometown, he was subject to this tax. Peter did what so many still do today. He spoke in behalf of Jesus when He really did not understand the issue sufficiently. They asked Peter if Jesus paid the Temple tax, to which Peter readily said, "Yes." Actually, Jesus was not subject to the tax at all. Two reasons, maybe three reasons. I will give "maybe" first.

Why Jesus Was Not Required To Pay The Tax

1. Jesus was not a resident of Capernaum. The Temple tax would normally have been paid by resident men. Peter was a resident, therefore he was expected to pay. It may be that they expected Jesus to pay for Peter because Peter was His disciple.

2. As was stated earlier, a Jewish man was not necessarily required to pay the Temple tax. It was voluntary.

3. Jesus was not subject to the tax at all since it was for the purpose of maintaining His Father's House. This is the argument He offers in the next verses.

Jesus was not present when Peter was questioned about the Temple tax, but He engages Peter in conversation concerning it when Peter came home.

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"... And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free"
(Matthew 17:25-26)
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Jesus Was Exempt From The Temple Tax

In His argument, Jesus used the practice of the kingdoms of this world to explain something about the Temple tax. He was not equating the Temple tax with a civil tax, therefore, neither should we. He was using an analogy. Analogies are not intended to do more than they are designed to do. Jesus was simply pointing out that He was not subject to paying the Temple tax because it was collected to support His Father's House. He points out that the tax is not imposed on the "children" but on strangers. Since the Temple was His Father's House, He was exempt.

Though Jesus was not obligated to pay the tax, He chose to pay it for His own reasons.

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"Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee"
(Matthew 17:27)
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To use this passage as an argument for paying "tribute to Caesar" is to go beyond the intent of the passage. If we say that we are obligated to Caesar, based on Jesus paying this tax, we can then interpret any and all other passages as loosely, and end up with something other than the Word of God.

Before you accuse me of saying that this passage teaches against paying "tribute to Caesar", let me save you the trouble of a false accusation. I am not saying it teaches against paying tribute to Caesar; I am saying this passage cannot be used to prove that Jesus paid tribute to Caesar.

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