Gleanings from the Daily Lectionary (11/16/11) – Freedom in Christ

Matthew 17:22-27

Peter is questioned by the tax man, “Does not your teacher pay the tax?” What tax? More than likely the temple tax is in view here as prescribed by Exodus 30:13. It had become an annual religious tax for Jewish males of 20 years and older. To the tax man, Peter answers yes. Apparently Jesus did.

But Jesus addresses Peter upon his return home. Seemingly (and caution is required here) Jesus pays the tax voluntarily so as “not to give offense.” “The sons are free,” Jesus says. What he is offering can’t be taxed by religious or secular authorities. Grace is free to the recipient. Grace is free period. The sons are not required to support religion, the Temple or its sacrifice ministry.

And yet, Jesus pays himself so as not to offend. Paul echoes such sentiments in Corinthians more than once. Negatively he says why not rather be cheated or offended (1 Cor. 6:7). Positively stated he says he becomes all things that some might be saved (1 Cor. 9:22). In the area of non-essentials one should exercise his freedom to advance the cause and not unnecessarily offend.

Tricky thing here? How do you exhort one to exercise freedom in such a manner without making the exercise of freedom a new law? This is where the church must resist the temptation to codify “not to give offense” or freedom in any way. The believer being sanctified must be left to discern that on his own. The church must faithfully teach the principle without defining its outcome. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. As has been suggested recently, grace is only experienced where scorekeeping is abandoned.


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