Belong. Believe. Behave.
14 August 2017
St John Chrysostom once said “the only person who is free is the one who lives for Christ.” Today’s scripture challenges each of us to understand the gift of freedom through faith.
But first, some context. The Temple Tax was a Jewish tax for the upkeep of the temple and not a Roman tax. When the collectors challenge Peter as to whether Jesus will pay this tax, they are actually challenging His support of the Jewish temple.
I can imagine Peter’s response as one panic, embarrassment, nervousness and confusion as he blurts out a “Yes of course”. But did Jesus really intend to?
When Jesus talks to Peter, He uses the analogy of a king’s choice to collect money either from his children or from the citizens. Peter responds that it is obviously from the citizens and therefore not from the king’s children. In the same way, Jesus seeks Peter to grasp that they are the children of the King of Kings: of God. Through Christ, Peter has been offered a deeply personal relationship with God: a real, experienced, conscious union. Through Christ, he has been made a child of God and by being a child of God, he has a divine freedom.
Jesus does not seek for Peter to cause an uprising with his newfound freedom, to rebel against the temple and refuse to pay the tax. Instead Jesus is saying that Peter has the freedom to support the temple.
Jesus is seeking to challenge how we come to faith. Rather than acting out of obligation, he wants us to first to belong to a community of brothers and sisters in Christ. From there, deepen in our belief Christ marked by a personal relationship. And finally, live out our faith through the behaviours of the Church.
Understanding faith as a personal encounter with Christ, lived out in community, indicates that the ‘old’ temples will pass away and be replaced by Christ himself as the true meeting place of God.
Finally, when we move in this freedom and love through faith, and not under coercion or constraint, God will work for you in ways you could never dream. The coin in the fish’s mouth is testament to this belief that what may seem impossible will become possible when you are living amidst the new ‘temple’ that is Christ.
How can you live in freedom as a child of God today?