Isa 32:1 Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, And princes will rule with justice. 2 A man will be as a hiding place from the wind, And a cover from the tempest, As rivers of water in a dry place, As the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. 3 The eyes of those who see will not be dim, And the ears of those who hear will listen. 4 Also the heart of the rash will understand knowledge, And the tongue of the stammerers will be ready to speak plainly. 5 The foolish person will no longer be called generous, Nor the miser said to be bountiful; 6 For the foolish person will speak foolishness, And his heart will work iniquity: To practice ungodliness, To utter error against the LORD, To keep the hungry unsatisfied, And he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. 7 Also the schemes of the schemer are evil; He devises wicked plans To destroy the poor with lying words, Even when the needy speaks justice. 8 But a generous man devises generous things, And by generosity he shall stand.
Ro 13:1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. 4 For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. 5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
Mt 17:24 When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?" 25 He said, "Yes." And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?" 26 Peter said to Him, "From strangers." Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free. 27 "Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you."
ďNevertheless.....lest we offend them.Ē Can I ask you a personal question? Did you take a shower this morning with some deodorant soap? Did you put on your deodorant this morning? Did you put on some clean fresh smelling clothes? Did you brush your teeth? Why did you do that?
Bottom line is you didnít want to be odiferous. You didnít want to offend anybody. People tend to shy away from those who have a certain ďairĒ about them. And just as we seek to not be offensive in the natural realm, so we too should seek not to be offensive in the spiritual realm.
As followers of Jesus Christ, this is one of the crosses we must bear. We must strive to not be offensive to others. So, while good physical hygiene is wise for the Christian, good spiritual hygiene is essential. The Bible says,
1Co 10:32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God,
That doesnít mean we have to walk around on eggshells all the time, wondering if we are being offensive, and it certainly doesnít mean that we compromise the truth of Godís Word. The fact is, we will be offensive to some because the Gospel itself is offensive to many
Ro 9:33 As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,."
People donít like to be told that they are sinners and in need of the grace of God offered through the Gospel. We all like to think that when we die and stand before God, He is going to think that we were pretty good people and worthy of eternal life. But we arenít good people in the eyes of a holy God. ďAll have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.Ē
As offensive as that is to some people, (you know, youíre not good enough) the true offense of the gospel is the fact that it is absolutely free....a gift from God, and there is something in the human nature that fights that. We want to do something!
And so the Gospel stinks to most people. It is only a sweet fragrance to those who have reached the point of knowing that they stink.....they have no merit of their own, and have no option but to throw themselves on the merits of Christ. May this be true for you today.
And when we are converted by the sweet fragrance of the Gospel, this sweet fragrance should follow us wherever we go.
2Co 2:14 Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?
None of us are sufficient, and thatís why we need to take our daily spiritual shower, revisiting what took place at our baptism. Confessing and repenting of our sins, washing them away with the Gospel promises of Godís Word, dying to self and walking out of that shower a new man in Christ.
This is what the church of Jesus Christ is called to do. We are to be diffusers of the fragrance of His knowledge. We are to be the fragrance of Christ! To those who believe, it is a pleasing aroma, to those who refuse to accept the free gift, it is the fragrance of death.
I grew up on a small farm just south of Muskego, and we lived about a quarter of a mile from a rendering plant. This is a place where they take animals that were no longer useful to the farmer, and I mean to tell you, when the wind was out of the west....we knew what death smelled like. Once you smell it, you will never forget it.
To some, the Gospel and Christ smell like death and they donít want anything to do with Him.
Have you ever come into a situation where you present the gospel or mention the name of Jesus among unbelievers, isnít it amazing how quickly the room clears, or the subject is changed? Why? Well, itís because youíve got the fragrance of Christ and His gospel clinging to you. To those who arenít ready to receive it....you stink.
So get use to it. You are going to stink to some when you bring up the matter of Christ and the Gospel. But donít stop bringing Him up, donít stop living for Him. Because to some you will be a sweet aroma that leads them to salvation.
While the Gospel can be offensive to others, thatís all that should be offensive about us. As Christians, we are to strive not to be offensive to others in matters not related to the Gospel. And thatís the point that Jesus wants to drive home to us in the Gospel lesson today.
Itís one of those portions of Scripture that is just mind-boggling and proves without a doubt, the divinity of Jesus. Only God could do the things Jesus did as recorded here. Not only was He privy to Peterís conversation with the tax collectors, (the omniscience of God) but He also was privy to the whereabouts of a fish with a coin in itís mouth with the exact amount necessary to pay the tax!
Mt 17:24 When they had come to Capernaum, (Capernaum was where Jesus hung out during His ministry years. Itís likely where Peter and John and the other fishermen lived, and it is thought that Jesus often stayed at Peterís house when He and the disciples werenít on the road.
Since this was His home base, the temple tax collectors were knocking at his door.
ďthose who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?"
The temple tax was an annual tax required of every 20 year old male in the OT church and it was used for the upkeep of the temple. It was the equivalent of about two days wages. We read of itís institution in the Book of Exodus.
Ex 30:13 "This is what everyone among those who are numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs). The half-shekel shall be an offering to the LORD. 14 "Everyone included among those who are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering to the LORD. 15 "The rich shall not give more and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when you give an offering to the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves. 16 "And you shall take the atonement money of the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the tabernacle of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD, to make atonement for yourselves."
Rich or poor you paid the same amount because this was atonement money. This was a prefiguring or foreshadowing of the fact that the rich have just as much need of Christís atonement as the poor, and the poor are as welcome to receive the atonement as the rich.
No difference between the rich and the poor. The price of atonement is the same for all of us....the blood of Jesus Christ.
This temple tax was not like an indulgence whereby you ďbought your atonement.Ē It was simply an acknowledgment of the atonement (a memorial) for the atonement which God would one day provide for His people through faith in the Promised Messiah.
This atonement money was then used for things like flour, wine, salt, incense, ....it would be the modern day equivalent of an altar guild fund.
Now, I have a confession to make. I pay a temple tax here at Living Word. I drive our Treasurer crazy with record keeping but I pay a temple tax. Yes I do! I take my annual household income, divide it by 365, and multiply that by 2. Then I divide that amount by 12 and every month I donate it, over and above my tithe to Living Word.
Iíd like to designate it to the altar guild, to be used for altar supply or the coffee fund or anything else to make Living Word a more pleasant place to worship, but Iíve been reluctant to do that , lest I load too much record keeping upon our treasurer. So I just designate it for the building fund.
But I donít do this out of legal compulsion. I am just as much a son as Peter is and I am free, but I just think it is a good idea, and I give it joyfully and gladly, because it enhances our worship experience here as we celebrate and commemorate our atonement every week. If youíre not paying it...thatís ok, but you might prayerfully consider it.
Back to the text:
25 He said, "Yes." And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?"
Jesus anticipated Simonís question about the temple tax even before he could ask it! Now who else can do that but God? How could Jesus possibly know what was said in this conversation unless He was God?
Ps 139:1 O LORD, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. 3 You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether.
Heb 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Then Jesus asks Peter, ďwho pays taxes to the king of a nation, his family or others?Ē
26 Peter said to Him, "From strangers." Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free.
The implication is that Jesus is royalty, and because of Peterís connection to Jesus by faith, he is royalty too. An adopted son of God. This adoption is available to all, to you and I even today because of what Jesus did on Calvary.
Joh 1:12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
The Sonís are free! We are no longer under the Law, but we must never use our liberty as an excuse to sin.....and we must never use our liberty to be offensive to others.
Ga 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (ooh thereís our mission statement again!)
And we must never use our liberty to offend others.
27 "Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you."
ďNevertheless, lest we offend them.Ē Remember again why this money was being paid. To not pay it would be saying to the Jewish people, Iím not interested in your atonement, Iím not interested in your God. I could care less about your temple. This would be a great offense to the Jew and they wouldíve drawn back from Jesus and treated Him as an atheist, and likely not given Him or His disciples an audience for the Gospel.
I guess the question we need to ask ourselves today is, are we being offensive to those outside the kingdom in any way? Are we giving cause to others to not hear what we have to say about Jesus. Whatís the first thing that comes to mind when you think of offensive Christians. Isnít it hypocrisy?
We need to learn to walk the talk donít we? We say we are Christians, but our homes are war zones. We say we are Christians but we tell crude jokes and use offensive language. We say weíre Christians but we often join in with character assassinating gossip.
We say we are Christians but we are quick to cheat on anything that we think we can get away with. We say we are Christians but we are so unforgiving. We say we are Christians, but we are so unloving. So hesitant to lay down our agenda for the sake of others.
We say we are Christians but we are so slow to learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves.
How soon we forget the truth of
Heb 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Now, none of us are perfect, and the real test of a Christian is how he handles the situation when he messes up. He goes to the party he has offended. That would be God, first of all. He asks for forgiveness and receives it based on the surety of Godís Word.
Then he goes to the one whom he has offended and admits his sin, and asks for forgiveness. Will he receive it? Not always, there is no guarantee, but at least he has done what he can do to remove the stench, and he has demonstrated to the offended party that he regrets his actions, is truly sorry for them, and will seek with Godís help in the future to not offend again.
We may or may not sin in that area again. We are not perfect. How does that bumper sticker go? Christians arenít perfect, they are just forgiven.Ē We struggle, but you know what? Thatís the normal Christian life. And we would all be better off, if we would accept that truth. As Paul himself said,
Ro 7:19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
25 I thank God--through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So, what can we do to at least limit our offensiveness to the world? Well, thereís nothing offensive about learning to live for the sake of others rather than yourself. And there is no foul odor in forgiving and asking others for forgiveness.
There is nothing revolting in daily dying to yourself and putting on Christ. So put on that spiritual deodorant everyday, revisit what took place at your baptism and you will do well.
We donít have time to go over our epistle lesson today. If you would like to hear about the Christian obligation to pay taxes, I suggest you take a copy or ask for a copy of the message entitled ďThe Hurt LockerĒ in which we preached from that text.
I know that there are Christians who have what they feel are legitimate reasons for not paying taxes. They can make a good case against the constitutionality of the income tax, and so they donít pay, but they run the risk of incurring the wrath of the state, and they run the risk of becoming an offense to others.
Isnít that worth considering? Right or wrong, how will others view your actions in this matter?
Think about it in relation to this incident in Capernaum. Címon, Jesus is the Son of God and Heís suppose to pay a temple tax, a tax for atonement! He is the atonement! If anyone had cause to not pay this tax it was Jesus, but He yielded because HE didnít want to be offensive.
Thatís the way it is in this Royal family....we learn to yield. We learn to sacrifice for the sake of others. Jesus yielded time after time in non-essentials because thatís what He wants us to do.
Php 2:3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
You see, itís not about you is it? Itís not about me! Itís not about us. Itís about learning to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves. Itís about learning to not be an obstacle to the Gospel. The Bible says, We are not our own, we were bought with a price.
1Co 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
We are not our own. We are royalty, we belong to God, and His way says, ďdaily, put on the spiritual deodorant HE has provided. Revisit your baptism, wash away the old man and his deeds and his perceived ďrights,Ē daily, die to self, live in Christ. As you yield to Him, you will learn to yield to others, and in so doing, you will emit the sweet fragrance of Jesus.