The “kings of the earth” levy taxes to support the government and their royal lifestyle. Taxes are levied against land, homes, and other real estate, slaves, animals, personal items, and monetary wealth. Rome exacted taxes from its citizens, but most especially from “foreigners”—peoples they have subdued. These onerous taxes were a burden and a reminder to people that they were not free, bearing the Roman yoke. As most often the case, even in our days, the “subjects” or friends of the rulers find a way to get away from the taxes that are their due.
Raising the issue to a higher level, the spiritual, Jesus says that the “subjects” or those of God are exempt from paying the temple tax. Jesus is here underlining the dignity of his disciples as “friends” of God. Still, Jesus says that this dignity is not an invitation to be overbearing or to feel special. Jewish Christians were to pay the temple tax and the census tax like anyone else. Later, writing to the Roman Christians, Paul admonishes, “Pay to all their dues, taxes to whom taxes are due, toll to whom toll is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due” (Rom 13:7).
GOSPEL • MATTHEW 17:22-27
As Jesus and his disciples were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were overwhelmed with grief.
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax approached Peter and said, “Does not your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes,” he said. When he came into the house, before he had time to speak, Jesus asked him, “What is your opinion, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take tolls or census tax? From their subjects or from foreigners?” When he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the subjects are exempt. But that we may not offend them, go to the sea, drop in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up. Open its mouth and you will find a coin worth twice the temple tax. Give that to them for me and for you.”
SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2021,” ST. PAULS, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.