14 August
Mt 17:22-27

Jesus said, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised." And they were greatly distressed.
When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?" He said, "Yes, he does." And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?" When Peter said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offence to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me."

There was an annual two-drachma tax on every Jewish male throughout the Empire.  It was for the upkeep of the Temple.  Certain people were exempt: priests, rabbis, and dependents of a king.  Jesus did not regard this tax as binding on himself or Peter: because they were God's own children.  But he told Peter to pay it anyway. He would choose the areas of confrontation with the authorities, and this was not one of them. 

There were Jewish stories of God blessing pious people by leading them to find precious objects in fish, and this may be behind Jesus’ instruction to Peter.  A more prosaic interpretation would be that he told Peter to do a bit of fishing and earn some money to pay the tax. 

This passage suggests a tradition of civil obedience going back to the beginning.  The following is from an early Christian writing (of uncertain date: sometime between 70 AD and 200), The Epistle to Diognetus: “The difference between Christians and others is not a matter of nationality, or language, or customs.  Christians do not live apart in separate cities of their own, speak any special dialect, nor practise any eccentric way of life…. Nevertheless, the organisation of their community does exhibit some features that are remarkable… For instance, though they are residents at home in their own countries, their behaviour there is more like that of transients; they take their full part as citizens, but they also submit to anything and everything as if they were aliens.  For them, any foreign country is a motherland, and any motherland is a foreign country….”



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This page gives a very brief commentary by Donagh O’Shea on the gospel reading for each day of the month. 


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