What the Tribute Money Teaches (Matthew #87)

Tribute Money

Text: Matthew 17:24-27

Tribute: An annual or periodical sum of money or other valuable thing, paid by one prince or nation to another, either as an acknowledgment of submission, or as the price of peace and protection, or by virtue of some treaty.

When the LORD Jesus Christ came the first time Rome was in control of the promised land. While Jews lived in Israel, the country was under Gentile control. Citizens of the dominant country don’t pay customs or tribute. But citizens of the conquered country do pay tribute. In some Islamic nations Jews and Christians pay a tribute called a jizya. Muslims in that country don’t pay it. The LORD Jesus Christ says to Peter those asking for this tribute money don’t have to pay it, nevertheless they’ll be offended if you and I don’t pay it. These Gentile Roman IRS agents are exempt from tribute, but you and I will be breaking their law if we don’t pay it. What’s implied is if this Roman law is broken it will hinder the ministry.

This is how this truth drastically affects the perspective of the disciples. The disciples and Jews in general were looking for a Christ that would be a present king. He would be a politically dominant force. One question the disciples had was when is the kingdom coming? They asked the LORD at what point will you be bringing in the kingdom? But with this brief interchange recorded by Matthew the answer is clear. Here is the distasteful reality the LORD Jesus Christ is giving to Peter: my kingdom is not coming now. I’m not overthrowing any kings of the earth at this time. Christianity will mean you live as strangers and pilgrims in this world. You will be in the world, but not of the world. You will be subject to governments. You will wander in a world you don’t belong to. If you’re a disciple you say wait a minute, our king came down from heaven and then pays tribute to a heathen king? You mean the kingdom is NOT coming, LORD?

Consider the definition of tribute one more time. Tribute: An annual or periodical sum of money or other valuable thing, paid by one prince (Jesus Christ) or nation (Christians) to another, either as an acknowledgment of submission…

Romans 13:1-2, 5-7 – Christians must be subject to higher powers so they don’t foolishly end up in prison and because there is no power but of God. Being subject is a matter of conscience and being subject to authorities is being subject to God. Sometimes this is the chastening of God as it was with Israel. The LORD told Israelites to subject themselves to the king of Babylon even though he was not holy or righteous.

1 Corinthians 10:32-33 – For the sake of salvation of souls. See Colossians 4:5-6. Them that are without are the Gentiles being talked about.

1 Thessalonians 4:12 – For the sake of testimony that the LORD’s ministry isn’t blasphemed. This part addresses why the LORD told Peter to go fishing. So what about the fish? The miracle is not the point, it’s just provision. Like most miracles it is how God provides for his laborers. It just shows you once again that what God instructs man to do He will equip man to do. He tells a fisherman to go fishing and he’ll find the provision necessary. This is particularly true of pastors and deacons. See 1 Timothy 3:7. When a church leader falls into reproach with the Gentile rulers because of his sin it is a great victory for the devil. Many souls will be destroyed and hardened against God because of it.

Hebrews 11:13-16 – These are the things that faithful people have always believed. If the faithful had embraced the world, their nation would have embraced them. If Abraham would’ve told God how patriotic he was and that he’d rather be identified as a Chaldean, you and I would not have heard of Abraham. You know of Abraham because he left his country to follow the will of God. Christian struggle is that Christians aren’t home. They don’t have any business establishing roots and finding hope in this world. Christians are out of place and unaccepted by the world that is in love with the flesh and all its pride and sensual activities.

John 17:14-19 – Christians are sent into a dirty evil world. And truth is what sanctifies and keeps Christians unspotted by the world they are constantly coming in contact with. (It’s like being sent into a pig pen but not getting dirty. You won’t be able to tiptoe enough to avoid the mess. What you have to do is put some sort of protective covering between you and the mud because the mud is going to get on you, but you don’t want it to get IN you.) See 1 Peter 2:11-16. Abstain from fleshly lusts and submit to the ordinances of man. 

The principle can be lost in the miracle. The LORD is dealing with unnecessary offences. The entire next chapter (18) deals with offences of different kinds, so the end of this chapter (17) begins the conversation about offences. You may ask what about the miracle of the fish. The fish is just provision for God’s work. Miracles are not the point. Miracles are easy to the LORD. Miracles are amazing to people, but they are simply the good work of God. And provision to do the good work of God. The LORD is able to equip you for every good work and instruction He’s given.