The Fish and The Coin
As my parole hearing gets closer and closer I am thinking a lot about how God operates. I mean, God sure hasn’t done what I wanted Him to do during the past 18 years since I started seeing the Parole Board or I would be in society right now. Evidently He works in ways that are different from the way I understand. Maybe that is why the story in Matthew 17:24-27 really intrigues me.
After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes, he does,” he replied.
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 children or from others?”
“From others,” Peter answered.
“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, 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 17:24-27 NIV)
The tax collectors didn’t even go to Jesus. I could see them standing far enough away to see how this new teacher was going to respond. What was His response? Two things: don’t give offense and go fishing.
The first thing, “don’t give offense” is actually the word where we get our word for scandal from. In other words, we do not want them to talk bad about us for the way we respond to them. Don’t get them mad. Don’t get on their bad side. How many times do I fail at this before I realize that I am God’s representative of grace to the lost? A simple instruction but so very hard to live out in everyday life.
The second thing He told His disciples is to go fishing. Isn’t that crazy? Not only go fishing, but the very first fish you catch there will be a two drachma coin (some versions say “shekel”) in the fish’s mouth. This was worth a day’s wages. As of August 8, 2016, silver ended the trace day at $1960 per ounce. That means that a day’s wages was around $8.00 in our currency. Now we could talk about the economy back then, but I want to focus on the fish and the coin.
Jesus knew where this coin was OR Jesus created this coin in the fish’s mouth. Either way, this fish had the taxes for Jesus and the disciple in its mouth. What a miracle! Notice the fish didn’t swallow it. Notice also that the fish did something that was completely unnatural for it to do…it got caught by the disciple. This is absolutely miraculous.
Why would Jesus do that? I think there is only one reason. Provision. God wants to provide for us in miraculous ways. He already takes care of us in ways that we explain away. He provides the air that we breathe, the heart that beats inside our chest and a brain that works (most of the time). He provides people that sometimes get under our skin so He can teach us patience and work on our character and brings people into our lives that give blessing and comfort. Do we thank God for these things?
Can we thank Him for the things we do not see or even know about? What about the car accident we did not get into, the disease we did not contract or the flood that did not come into our neighborhood? Do we trust God enough to thank Him for the things we do not see?
I find it harder to thank Him for the second set for some reason. Perhaps it is because it is my lack of faith. Perhaps it is my fleshly nature to rely on the things I can see. Whatever the reason, I want to be the one that relies on Him for everything and to know that God has my back no matter what the circumstances are.
Even for taxes.