When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”
I have always loved this story. I don’t really know why. It’s a short, simple story, and it isn’t particularly deep or moving. I just love how Jesus sounds in this story. He isn’t upset or impassioned, He just feels like a friend.
The point of this, of course, is that Jesus doesn’t need to pay the Temple Tax. He will spend some time later talking about why nobody is required to give money to the church/temple. It’s a good thing to do, but not the end-all-be-all of the Faith. But the real kicker, in my opinion, is that Jesus does it anyway! “So that we do not give offense,” He says. He chooses to do something He doesn’t have to in order to avoid hurting someone’s feelings!
Remember how Jesus said that loving our neighbors was second only to loving God? Sometimes people are going to be a pain in the butt. (So will governments.) But if they ask you to do something you may not want to do, but doesn’t hurt you, what reason is there not to do it? They loving thing to do is to make people happy. Maybe that means volunteering with a person you don’t particularly like. Maybe it means donating a couple of dollars to an organization you are less than passionate about. Maybe it means dressing in a way that won’t scandalize the older members of you congregation. Just make sure that, like Jesus, whatever you do you are doing in love.
I also love the little miracle with the fish. It is so random and unnecessary. Surely He could have just made a coin materialize in Simon’s pocket or something. I’m sure the fish symbolizes something, but mostly I just see it as yet another proof of how completely awesome Jesus was.