Taxes and Tithing

Matthew 17: 22-27
Dt 10:12-22/ Ps 147

“From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own sons or from others?”
(Matthew 17:25)

Jesus went to all the trouble--
With a miracle to pay the tithe.
Paying taxes for the temple,
Was His example for living right.

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill Him, and on the third day He will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief. After Jesus and His disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” Peter replied, “Yes, He does.” 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?” Peter answered, “From others.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. 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.” (Matthew 17:22-27)


The temple tax was an old Mosaic practice that all Jews were required to pay as atonement for sins (Exodus 30:11–16). The collections of this tax were used for the maintenance of the temple in Jerusalem. The amount was quite small, intended to be affordable to the general public. But how ironic that the pure and sinless Son of God would be taxed for the upkeep of His own dwelling. And to atone for what? And yet, in His divine wisdom and great humility, telling Peter, ‘but that we may not offend them…’ He complied with this indignity. But with an appropriate miracle, He demonstrated His sovereignty over creation by producing the exact amount from the mouth of a fish!

Take note that among the four Gospel writers, it is only in the version of Matthew that we find this incident about the payment of the temple tax. Perhaps being a former tax collector himself, Matthew could not let this incident pass unrecorded. For the benefit of his Jewish readers, he wanted to show that the Messiah, true to His word, was always faithful in observing the law in all respects. Recall another time in another Gospel when Jesus said, “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God” (Luke 20:25). All of us are admonished by God’s Word to honor and respect those who have authority over us, as we read in Romans 13:7: “Pay to all what is due them: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.” Scriptures give us lessons in obedience, humility and the practice of paying our dues. If Jesus Himself would willingly comply with ‘petty’ man-made laws, then no one was exempted from compliance, whether required by the state or for the support of our local church.

May the Gospel passage today be a lesson to us, that we should obey the laws and customs of our city and country – as long as there is nothing immoral in them — so that like Jesus we may set an example to unbelievers as well as violators who profess and call themselves Christians. To be a good Christian is to be a good citizen, to live in the world and be subject to all its legal and ethical regulations. Although our Lord did not belong to the world, He submitted to its rules as a good citizen. Although He was sinless, He paid the temple tax, which was for atonement of sins. He would soon pay for the greater atonement of all of our sins, a payment that He Himself would provide, and at the cost that mankind can never repay.

Timeless lessons from our timeless God, may we live them faithfully in our lives, so that we will always give You the glory, loving Father. Amen.

One Response to “Taxes and Tithing”

  1. Alicia  on August 14th, 2013

    This passage of Jesus’ life has perplexed me in the past, but today your reflection made Jesus’ words and actions so clear and meaningful! Thank you so much! I enjoy your Mass reading reflections very much! Keep up the great work!