I was reading Matthew 17:24-27 today and got to thinking about freedom in Christ versus religion in Christ. Read it with that in made and see if anything jumps out:
24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple 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 children or from others?” 26 “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, 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 and yours.”
What is Jesus saying about this temple tax? He seems to equate this taxation with the taxation a a conquering king would force upon those he has conquered. If this is true, it seems Jesus viewed the temple structure and its taxation as the “ruler” and the Jewish people as the “ruled,” the “powerful” and the “powerless.” Jesus in contrast to this class division equates the people with family. He is inclusive, calling the people children of the king rather than subjects to the king. They are therefore exempt from that taxation, or “free citizens” as the New Living Translation states it. This is Jesus’ view of His people, family and free citizens.
What does Jesus do with this view, does He throw it in the face of the temple representative who are collecting this tax? No, He rather honors their place and pays the tax. The temple had a place in Jesus’ paradigm. It was a place people connected with God, and each other. The “religion” of the day had a place, but Jesus was redeeming it. He was returning it to its intention. So, He honors the system while breathing life into it.
For us, I wonder what this means? If we interact with folks with a more “religious” view of the world, how are we to interact? We carry the freedom of Jesus with us. As His followers He is our focus, not tradition or routines. But those traditions and routines have a place. They are a way many connect with God and their community. So what shall we do? We are called by this passage to extend a hand of fellowship, while also proclaiming freedom in Jesus, remembering we are His children and not His oppressed subjects. How we live this out will be a point of meditation in the midst of both valuable and also unhealthy traditions around us. But, may we be voices of life in Christ, and the grace of Jesus.