Fishing for Truth
[Jesus said] But so that we may not cause offense, 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.
Matthew 17:27 NIV
Several years ago, my daughter and her boyfriend were fishing. Resting with the pole on her shoulder, the hook plopped into the water behind her and snagged a fish! When she hurled a cast, the fish came careening toward her, slapping the middle of her back! Her boyfriend raised his hands in disbelief. He wondered how she could catch a fish from behind her back, when he couldn’t coax them out of the water with the finest bait! Both are fishing novices, but this day she couldn’t miss and he couldn’t even get a nibble. Sometimes we get it… often we don’t.
Take a moment to read Matthew 17:24-27 in your Bible. This passage may seem irrelevant to us at first glance but it holds three nuggets of truth we can zero in on: Choose, Use and Clues.
In Exodus, the Law of Moses stated that a half of a shekel (or two drachma) should be received from each man for the services of religion. This was in addition to the tithe, so it was considered a voluntary offering used to purchase the items for daily sacrifice (wood, animals, salt, and incense). So their question was, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
Peter, in his confrontational manner spoke up quickly in defense of Jesus, “Yes he does.”
I’m sure Peter was anxious to get back to Jesus to tell Him what had happened. But when Peter walked into the house, Jesus already knew and was the first to speak to Peter.
After explaining why He should not be expected to pay this tax, Jesus illustrated these three truths to the hotheaded Peter:
Truth #1 – Choose – Let's make a deliberate decision not to fight. Let's not provoke any needless argument or opposition. Even though we would be right, it would be best in this situation to pay the tax and set an example. Christ was always teaching us how to behave!
Truth #2 – Use – Use the gifts and abilities you’ve been given. God allows us to use our natural gifts for the service of the King. Peter was a fisherman. Jesus didn't make the coin appear from thin air, nor did He ask Peter to make a pair of shoes and sell them. Rather, Peter did what he was gifted to do – fish – and God provided through that. When we are in need, we need to be prepared to work. Catch this, Jesus didn't just take care of his own tax, but Peter's as well. In the original language Jesus said Peter would find a “stater,” which was a Roman coin equal to 4 drachms or one shekel. There are benefits to obedience!
Truth #3 – Clues – Throughout Jesus’ life He provided clues of His divine nature. This day was no different. He knew Peter had a question about the tax and He knew the first fish caught would have this coin in its mouth. Whether He knew fish eagerly bite anything bright and this particular one had swallowed a stater or whether He created the coin for the occasion and placed it there, Jesus was divine. He knows our situations and needs well.
This seemingly odd story, tucked between the transfiguration and parables, holds evidence of these important truths:
Choose – not to fight
Use – your natural ability
Clue – God is all-knowing
Cast your eyes into His Word today and let these truths hook your heart.
Dear Lord, help us to fall in love with Your Word more each and every day. Teach us that not one of Your truths are empty but full of meaning and useful in our lives. In Jesus’ Precious Name, Amen.