Payment of the Temple Tax
We support our government by faithfully paying our taxes even taxes that were somewhat not just. We also support and help our Church financially in so many ways like giving a certain amount of our money during offertory collection, by offering more Mass intentions, helping in asking donations from well-off families or by giving tithes and pledges. Some would help too by rendering manual services for free or for some minimal fee and other by teaching catechism for free and many more. But it is quite humiliating on the part of Jesus because He is the Son of God and the Temple is His Temple and yet in today’s gospel reading He pays the temple tax. He pays tax in order not to give bad example and not to cause scandal. The Roman government imposed on the Jewish people four different kinds of duties: a land tax, a poll tax and a tax on personal property, export and import customs at seaports and city gates, and in Jerusalem a house tax.
Aside from these four kinds of taxes, the people were charged also annually for the temple. It is because the temple is an expensive place to run. Offerings of visitors in the temple are fluctuating and so this tax enables priests to be relied on. This is called didrachma in the gospels (Matt 17:24). That, all male Jews over the age of twenty years are required to pay an annual sum of two drachmas to support the worship of God in the Temple of Jerusalem (Ex. 30:11-16). This is not a voluntary one but a compulsory even for those who are not living in Palestine.
This paying of temple tax teaches three things. First, paying temple tax helps us maintain the temple or the Church. But it has also a deeper purpose. To pay taxes implies submission to a higher authority. In the case of the temple tax, it represented not only submission to God but also indicated that one was inferior to God. Somebody had said that the temple embodied for the Jewish people the presence of God among them. For this reason, the temple tax was seen as an act of respect and justice towards the authority of God. In addition, the temple is not only the household of the Father but also, on a spiritual level, the body of Christ. Today the Church symbolizes the New Temple born from the blood of Christ. For this reason, St. Paul urges us to love the Church. Jesus pays the temple tax, not out of duty but out of love.
Second is, in order to avoid scandal. A priest, in his homily, also said that Jesus is not obligated to pay the temple tax. The Gospel states that for fear of de-edifying them Jesus instructs Peter to pay the required tax. In paying the tax Christ teaches his disciples a very important lesson: avoid what may cause scandal to others. Jesus knew that if He didn’t pay the tax it could be interpreted as a sign of disrespect towards God. He avoids causing a public scandal by paying the tax even when as the Son of God, and as a subject, He didn’t need to. This is certainly an important lesson for any Christian. There are many things that we may do that are not wrong in themselves but could easily scandalize someone else. The virtue of charity invites us to always strive to edify others by our example.
Third is, we have to work hard. We have to work hard and not just wait for a miracle because we have debts to be paid. Let us not just pray our holy rosary and novena and ask for a miracle so that we will be able to pay our debt. Let us not wait that the fish will land at our lap but rather let us work hard.