Matthew 17:22-27 Lest We Offend

by | Nov 17, 2023 | Matthew, New Testament

I. The Temple Tax

A. It’s Origin & Purpose Exodus 30:11-16

1. Intended as a ransom for their souls Ex. 30:12a

a. A recognition of the debt owed to God for when He delivered the people from Egypt, & His gracious covering (ransom, kopher ) of their sin & guilt
b. Not a payment for ransom, but because they were already ransomed.

2. Intended to prevent plagues Ex. 30:12b

a. Numbering anything signifies ownership
b. Taking a census w/o remembering God would signify independence & either self-ownership or ownership by a human king (i.e. David)
c. A census w/o God’s command implied self-rule & self-ownership
d. David took a census on his own & w/o receiving this ransom money and Israel was plagued because of it. (2 Samuel 24)

3. Every man 20 & older; old enough to be in their army Ex. 30:14

a. Each man had to pay his own ransom money; it had to be personal
b. Had to be paid/remembered by each man; no lump sum payments

4. Same amount for all; every life equally guilty/valuable Ex. 30:14, 15
5. Called atonement money Ex. 30:15b, 16
Atonement- To cover, purge, make reconciliation, cover over

6. To support the work of the tabernacle of meeting Ex. 30:16b

a. Those giving the money would eventually be benefited by what they gave
b. The tabernacle served the people as they brought their offerings to God

7. To be a memorial of atonement Ex. 30:16c

a. They were to remember that God rescued them, and that they now belonged to Him. They were His because He rescued them from Egypt

8. To be collected whenever a census was taken Ex. 30:12a

a. Only when the men were physically counted as being a part of Israel
NOTE- “when/then” used 5 times in verses 12 & 13

9. Paid by those who were previously far away from God, but who had been rescued by God that they might belong to Him
10. This doesn’t teach that you can pay for your salvation, but that your salvation has been paid for/provided for by another

B. What It Was & Wasn’t

a. This wasn’t a civil tax levied by Rome. Nothing to do w/secular government
b. This was an ecclesiastical offering unto God, collected by Jews from Jews
c. This was not to be confused with tithing, free will offerings, of any other kind of giving to God. This offering was memorial giving pointing to redemption.
d. This is not a pattern of N.T. giving. The N.T. teaches that each of us should give differently, according to our differing abilities, and that it should be sacrificial.
e. This “tax” was equal for all men, rich & poor, signifying the equality of every soul before God. All paid the same “ransom” amount

C. A Potential Danger For Them

a. Suggestion: There may have been a danger of forgetting what the “ransom money” represented, and became just religious building maintenance money
b. Possibility: In giving “ransom money”, it may have been easy for them to focus more on what they were doing for God instead of what God had done for them
c. The giving of this money was first & foremost a memorial of God’s rescue
d. It may have turned into an act which in their minds, proved their own supposed righteousness. That happened with tithing, fasting, & praying

II. Jesus & The Temple Tax

A. Jesus States A Principle

1. Kings of the earth don’t tax their own sons, they tax strangers/non-family.
2. God the Father wouldn’t tax God the Son for the Temple which foreshadowed Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate ransom for men’s sins

B. Why Jesus Was Exempt From Paying It

1. Jesus had no ransom to pay for Himself
2. He had never been estranged from the Father b/c of sin
3. He never had to receive atonement b/c of sin
4. Jesus became atonement for us; He never had to provide atonement for Himself

Turn to 2 Corinthians 5:21
5. God would expect ransom money only from those that had been ransomed
6. Jesus makes clear that normally the family members of the ruler who collected taxes did not have to pay. Based on this common practice, Jesus was under no obligation to pay temple tax as the temple was His Father’s. (John 2:16)
7. The Temple was also called Jesus’ house. (Malachi 3:1)
8. To avoid the appearance of not respecting the temple, He would pay, though He knew the overseers of these funds were thieves. (Mt.. 21:13)

C. Why & How Jesus Paid It

1. “…lest we offend them…”skandalizo-to put a stumbling block or impediment
2. Jesus didn’t avoid offending people at the expense of truth. (Matt. 11:6; 15:12, 13)
3. He did avoid offending people if it would further the truth about His mission
4. The public didn’t understand Jesus’ heavenly exemption from paying this tax
5. To fight about it, explain it, etc., would have been counter-productive
6. Jesus paid this tax in such a way as to show Peter His sovereignty/Kingship

III. Applications For Us

A. Modern Day Examples Of “Lest We Offend”

1. Don’t bring meat to a potluck at a vegetarian church
2. Dressing up or down to minister in other churches or Christian groups
3. Billy Graham’s willingness to wear robes in Eastern Orthodox churches
4. Preaching from a KJV Bible if asked to do so at a certain church
5. Women wearing a veil & dress; men wearing a suit: in order to serve others
6. Civil or religious procedures that have not caught up to God’s truth, but that do not challenge or undermine it, are not worth the image of stubbornness that resisting them would provoke.

B. Have Your Faith & Religious Practices Rooted In Truth, Not Culture

1. The idea of “lest we offend” must be rooted in truth greater than cultural practice
2. Jesus absolutely knew that He was exempt from the “temple tax”
3. Our salvation & practical holiness is not rooted in cultural practices, but in Biblical truth.

a. Our salvation is based upon Jesus’ work on the cross (1 Peter 1:17-19)
b. Our practical holiness is a result of God’s Spirit working in us (Gal. 3:1-3)