Finding Grace in Labour (Matthew 17:25-27)

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

Peter has just been asked by the tax collectors if Jesus pays the temple tax.  Peter had  replied positively, perhaps simply to get them off their backs. “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?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the sons are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “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.””

Peter may have spoken without truly thinking, but Jesus is gracious to both him and the tax collectors. Even though it is foolish in the extreme to tax God and His servants for the operation of a temple that is built in God’s honor, Jesus nevertheless complies. He knows that a small sum of money simply isn’t worth getting into an argument about. It would become a distraction to what He is doing. It could easily take the people’s minds off what God was doing. Worse, arguing about the injustice of temple tax would no doubt cause trouble for and dishonor the temple servants, who were simply going about temple business. For these reasons (and likely more), Jesus tells Peter that they will pay the tax, “so that we may not offend them.”

However, the greater lesson to be learned here is not that we should grudgingly pay taxes. It is that in the Kingdom of God, God provides. More than that, God provides by telling us to do exactly what we love to do. Jesus knew that Peter was a fisherman at heart. Peter loved fishing. So He tells Peter to go fishing, even though both Jesus and Peter would immediately remember that Jesus had called Peter away from fishing for fish. But while Peter was now a new kind of fisherman – a fisherman who catches people instead of fish – catching actual fish is forever part of who Peter is. It is his history. It is something Peter knows how to do without thinking, so it would likely remain a hobby – a way to relax. But it is nevertheless a highly profitable time – albeit short, because the very first fish he catches will have exactly what the tax collector is looking for. 

When you are in the Kingdom of God, your time is split between doing something you love – which provides the needed resources – and doing the work of ministry, which puts you out of your comfort zone for God’s glory. It is not one or the other. The Spirit of God is at work in both. In the one, He uses our natural and learned skills to amply provide for both us and those we support. In the other, the spiritual gifts He has given us come to play in full force as we rely on His Spirit to do what only He can do. 

In both, God is glorified. In both, we experience His providential grace. In both, we are able to bless others by His power. That is the Kingdom of God. 

God is good, all the time. Amen.

Enjoying the sense of using a God-given gift in the service of him and others can bring great contentment.

Graham Cole

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Let us worship God in all we do – be it work or hobby!