sometimes confuses the new Christian to discover that the church has an
inverted organization chart; those who would lead must serve. It is a
consistent point of Christ’s teaching, and some attention must be paid to it.
Mat 17:24-27 NIV
After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the
two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the
temple tax?" (25) "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 sons or from others?" (26) "From others," Peter answered.
"Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. (27) "But so that we may not offend them, 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
may note that the tax collectors in this instance are rather modest souls; the
inquiry goes to Peter, not to Christ. Perhaps this is because the request is
rather out of season – by about six months. Perhaps they felt this was the
only time they’d have the chance to ask.
tax itself dates back to the Old Testament.
It is considered an atonement tax, and thus the amount is not determined by
your wealth but fixed equally for all. It can be considered, thus, a ransom
tax; the Jews would have seen it as such.
problem, of course, is the sovereignty of Christ. He is the atonement; how
then can he pay the atonement tax?
please, that Jesus speaks first – before Peter has a chance to ask. In this
way he shows His omniscience (a useful reminder at delicate times) and his
courtesy – Peter does not have to present this awkward demand to him.
points out that, as King, he pays no taxes. He doesn’t owe this money. But
there is no reason not to pay this tax; it satisfies the word of the Law
(as interpreted later). Closer to home, failing to pay this tax might offend –
or even cause to go astray – these tax collectors. Is Jesus to be considered a
“holy revolutionary?” Not at all. Bureaucrats tend to see themselves as high
and mighty, though – so Christ arranges a demonstration for them. The method
of obtaining the money must have struck them as unusual, at least.
is a relationship between power and poverty in the kingdom of God. The Father
is gracious about letting the rich (including almost all Americans) participate
in the kingdom. He tells them
to be generous in their charity, both in what they give and how often they give
it. But it is to the poverty stricken that power in the kingdom is given. The
example is Christ himself. It is an example not to be missed.
of all – with humor
method of our Lord in this instance is a providence; from the root word,
provide. As in God will provide for us. It is not technically a miracle – but
it does stretch the laws of probability a bit. It is an example to us so that
we may know that God provides for those who trust in Him.
shares the coin from the fish with Peter; by example, then, it is a shared
ransom. Just as we share the Ransom with Peter.
may take the example of Christ as this: pay whatever you owe, do whatever you
must do as long as it does not contradict the command of God. But don’t take
it too seriously, will you?
is the Greatest?
Mat 18:1-5 NIV
that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in
the kingdom of heaven?" (2) He called a
little child and had him stand among them. (3)
And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like
little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (4) Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this
child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (5)
"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
question must be seen in the context of the previous section. It may have
appeared to the other disciples that Peter is being treated with favoritism
here. But, to their credit, the disciples do not grumble about it, but take
the question directly to Jesus. Just how does one become great in the kingdom?
his reply, Jesus uses a word which can also be translated “infant.” The
picture might be that of a toddler – that most independent of dependents.
thing about little children: they lack the ability to be hypocrites. What
they are is what you hear. In that culture, such a child would have been at
the lowest social station. “Children are to be seen and not heard.” “Do what
you’re told, when you’re told, how you’re told.” Except for new army recruits,
they are the lowest of the low.
have you ever seen the eagerness with which such a child “helps” daddy? It is
the service of the humble and innocent. The connection of the two is
important: the humble ask the privilege of serving. But leadership in the
kingdom of God is servant-leadership, for which humility is essential. And a
pure innocence is needed for humility.
might well object that humility is something acquired or given; I think rather
that it is chosen. Once chosen, it may be difficult to achieve; even the
darkest paths start with a fork in the road, however.
you listen to modern advertising you will hear phrases like “family oriented”
or “family friendly.” You know without looking that they’re not talking to
grandma; they are advertising to those who have young children. The word
“family” implies children, and by extension the family of God has children too
– who must be cared for.
the Father is the head of this family just as the father is supposed to be the
head of earthly families. This point is no longer taught in churches today, as
the egalitarian ideal of marriage is now proclaimed to be eternal truth.
Nevertheless, the Scripture has not changed. Therefore, if it is important to
the Father, it should be important to us.
the lowest can be an ambassador of the highest. As my children act, so you
judge me as a father. May God’s children be a shining example of the least in
we’re headed home
me one story about little children. (A true story, or so I am told.) Dad was
driving; mom was reading the map. She was having difficulties with the task,
as is common, so much so that her confused husband had to ask her: “Just tell
me: are we headed north or south?” The five year old in the back seat piped
up, “Dad! We’re headed home.”
ought to know where we are going and how to get there. We also ought to know
whom Christ cares for along the way.
Mat 18:6-14 NIV
But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it
would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to
be drowned in the depths of the sea. (7)
"Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such
things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! (8) If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut
it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled
than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. (9) And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out
and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have
two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.
(10) "See that you do not look down on one of
these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the
face of my Father in heaven. (11) (12)
"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders
away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one
that wandered off? (13) And if he finds it, I
tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the
ninety-nine that did not wander off. (14) In
the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones
should be lost.
to the world
is inevitable in this fallen world. (You might want to make a note of that).
That means we’re in for disappointment, let-down or even betrayal in those we
love. The only qualification for being a Christian is that you must be a
of us, however, reach the wrong conclusions about this:
is going to happen. So why should I put forth effort to be sinless, when
I know it can’t be done?
when I sin, God forgives. So when I sin more, God forgives more. That’s
a good thing, right?
this shouldn’t affect others, because they’re responsible for their own
love is not an excuse for sin. Yes, it’s going to happen – but you’re still
responsible for your own sin. If this is so, then how much greater is the
offense when you cause (by example, perhaps) a little child to sin?
God values the children
our poor example to children is often completely ignored. The reason is
usually our own egos; we’re important, kids are not. We’ll get around to them
later, when they grow up.
an attitude says that children are worthless until they grow up – by which time
they will have absorbed the lesson of your sin. (Ditto grandchildren). It’s
easy to look down on children in a condescending way; the same applies to new
believers as well. But see how God regards them! Their angels have access to
Him face to face; the ultimate example of being “in.”
hope you see the importance that God places on these children. He wants each
and every one of them to come home to him – and woe to the one who leads them
I leave you with two points?
are for the sick; the church is for the lost. Let us remember what we are
are to concentrate on our problems – be those personal or corporate –
rather than congratulate ourselves on how well the remaining sheep are
came to seek and save the lost; if you cannot help, at least do not hinder.