6 November 2019

Matthew 17:14-27

When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?’ (v. 24)

Psalm: Psalm 97


Every year I have to complete a tax return – well, I talk to a nice lady who does the tax return on my behalf!

In order to complete it I have to reveal all manner of details about income and expenditure and provide all sorts of figures.

Despite the fact that my ‘tax lady’ is a lovely person, I don’t really like having to make the phone call because it means that I may have to pay out more of my money to the Government each year. Mind you, in return I get health care, education and all manner of protections and services – but it still hurts!

The people of Jesus' day had to pay taxes to the ruling government (the Romans) and to the religious leaders (Temple Tax). They certainly didn’t seem to benefit at all from paying out their money and there are frequent grumbles throughout the New Testament narratives about greedy tax collectors who cheat and pocket money for themselves and the overlords who give nothing back but demand much.

No wonder people tried to avoid paying tax at any cost!

Here the question arises about paying the religious tax. Who does the money come from – those closest to the collectors and therefore the system or from those outside the system?

In theory the answer is that those who are outside the system should pay and the family should go free of charge. However, fairness, justice and equality demand that everyone pay the same so rather than underline the differences and the freedom that is there for the ‘family’, Jesus goes for justice and equality, aligning himself yet again with the experiences and difficulties of the ordinary people of his day and age.

The money needed may have come from a curious source but the intention is to do as everyone else has to do; equality, justice and a coming alongside the everyday.


To Ponder:

  • When you look at the world around you where do you see inequality or injustice at work?
  • What could you do to come alongside those struggling with the everyday of our society?

Bible notes author

The Revd Una McLean

Una is a Methodist minister currently working in Cramlington, Northumberland as part of the South East Northumberland Ecumenical Area. Before becoming a minister she worked as an occupational therapist for 20 years in fields as varied as elderly care, adult mental health and paediatrics.

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