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12:25 PM   [29 Aug 2018 | Wednesday]

Jesus, the Temple Tax, and the Fish with a Coin in its Mouth

 

In Matthew, we learn about the miracle of the fish with a coin in its mouth.  Let’s read it.

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” Matthew 17:24-27 (ESV)

Now, let’s look at this passage more closely.

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.”

In Jesus’s time, there was a tax that was expected from all Jewish males over the age of 20 known as the Temple Tax.  The tax was one half shekel in Jewish money.

The Temple tax was loosely based on Exodus 30:13-16, when God instructed Moses to collect one half shekel from every Hebrew man over twenty that was listed in their census.  Years later, this levy eventually became an annual event, and was used to pay for the expenses of the Temple.  This was not a civil tax for the Romans.  This money went for the support of the Temple, collected by loyal devotees.”And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”

In ancient times, kings and other leaders who levied a tax, named certain groups of people to be exempt from the tax.  Kings excused their own families, including their sons, from paying the King’s toll upon the people.  Jesus was using this occasion to tell Peter, and us, some important truths.  Jesus asked Peter if kings required their own sons to pay the king’s tax.   It was common knowledge that they did not, so Peter responded that other people paid the tax, not the king’s sons.

“And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.”

The Bible very often gives important truths in subtle, even hidden ways.  This verse is an example of that.   Jesus is actually saying, “I am the Son of God.”  We have to read closely to understand this important truth.  When Jesus spoke these five words, “Then the sons are free.”, He was actually claiming divinity.  This tax was meant to take care of the Temple, which is His Heavenly Father’s House.  Jesus was saying that He is the Son of the Heavenly Father and needn’t pay a tax to maintain His Father’s House.  It is Jesus’ House, Jesus’ Father, and He doesn’t need to pay His Heavenly Father a tax to service His own House.  An earthly king’s son doesn’t pay tax to his father, and the Only Begotten Son doesn’t pay taxes to His Heavenly Father, the King of the Universe.

“However, not to give offense to them,”

Jesus then used the question about the Temple tax to teach a lesson.  Even though Jesus, as the Son of God, was excused from paying the tax, He would pay it in order to not offend the Jewish leaders. Jesus is teaching here that Christians have freedom, but they must sometimes give up their rights for the sake of others. (see Galatians 5:13)

“go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

After claiming to be the Son of God, Jesus proceeds to demonstrate His divinity by sending Peter on a miraculous fishing trip to obtain the needed coin in the mouth of the first fish he catches.  The shekel coin Peter will take out of the fish’s mouth will be the exact amount needed to pay the Temple tax for both Jesus and Peter.

This Bible story teaches that Jesus is the Son of God.  If we accept Jesus as our Savior, we also are sons of God and we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:14, 16-18 (ESV)

 

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12:24 PM   [19 Aug 2018 | Sunday]

Philippians 4:13 Has Its Limits

Let’s take a look at one of the Bible’s most quoted, and misunderstood, verses. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13(KJ2000, bold print added) This verse has been inscribed on countless key chains, t-shirts, and coffee mugs. It has become a kind of spiritual rabbit’s foot in popular culture. It is thought to mean, by many, that if a Christian has enough trust in Christ, he can accomplish anything. No obstacle is too challenging for a person of faith. There is no reason to be poor, unemployed, sick, or lonely because “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” Is this what Paul really meant when he wrote this verse in his Letter to the Philippians? Let’s take a closer look at it. As is true when reading any verse in the Bible, you must understand its context before you can know what it is saying. The two sentences before this verse help to bring the true meaning of this sentence into focus. Let’s examine this verse along with the two sentences before it. “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13 (KJ2000, bold print added) When we read this verse in context, we see that the Apostle Paul is discussing his ability to be content in both poverty and abundance, and he had experienced both. He knew how not to be discouraged during times in his life when he was poor. He also understood how to behave during prosperous periods by not being proud, overly secure, or worldly. It is these two things to which Paul refers when he says “I can do all things…”. In other words, he can handle the challenges of being either rich or poor. Either way, he remained faithful to Jesus Christ. A possible paraphrase for Philippians 4:13 might be “I can handle being either rich or poor because Jesus is strengthening me.” Paul is not saying he can do all things. He is not Superman. He couldn’t jump over a house or walk through a wall. He wrote this Epistle while he was imprisoned by the Romans. He was awaiting a trial before Caesar which could have possibly ended very badly for him. If he could “do all things”, he probably would have changed his own miserable circumstances. I think one of the best Bible translations for Philippians 4:13 is in the New International Version. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.“ (bold print added) In this translation, Paul says, “I can do all this” instead of “I can do all things”. This more accurately relates the meaning of the passage. “All this” refers us back to what Paul was just writing about – being content in either poverty or in abundance. Paul is saying “I can do it either way.” When Paul says “I can do all this”, he is not referring to his own unlimited potential power in life. Paul says “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.“. He can endure these things through Jesus Christ. It is the power of Jesus working in him that allows him to live his Christian life either as a rich man or a poor one. His success is tied directly to the will of God. If he is living his life within the will of God, he can be a great Christian man, as well as a rich one. If it is the will of God that he be poor, he can still be a godly person in God’s service. I want to make one more point of clarification. The phrase “I can do all things” is translated from the ancient Greek word “ischuo”. This Greek word means have strength, have power, be able to prevail, to be able to endure. So, a clearer translation of this word, in my opinion, might be: “I have the strength for all things” or “I have the power for all things” or “I can endure all things”. With these definitions in mind, I prefer the following translations of Philippians 4:13: “I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.” (Good News Translation, bold print added) “I have strength for anything through Him who gives me power.” (Weymouth New Testament, bold print added) “I have strength for all things in him that gives me power.” (Darby Bible Translation, bold print added) “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (NIV, bold print added)) “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” is not a blank check or a credit card without any limits. It’s not a verse that tells Christians they can do anything they can dream up, as long as they want it badly enough. When read in context, this verse means that a Christian can endure the often difficult circumstances in life, and be content in times of want, or in times of plenty because they are going through life utilizing the power of Jesus Christ in their daily lives. Finally, Jesus put it this way in John 15:5-8. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (NIV)
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9:58 AM   [08 Aug 2018 | Wednesday]

Husband and Wife – One Flesh

 

According to God’s Word, a Christian husband and his wife are one flesh.  They are more than a man and woman who love each other, and who are raising a family.  God considers them united.  Let’s look at the scriptures that support this fact.

“But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis2:20-22&24 (NIV, bold print added)

God determined that it was not good for Adam to be alone, so He created a “suitable helper” for him, which is an thought-provoking phrase.  The Greek word for helper in this verse is “ezer”, and it does not describe someone who provides low level assistance.  It is used 21 times in the Bible, and frequently the Greek word “ezer” refers to “help” given by God.  That’s pretty important help.  For example:

“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.” Psalm 33:20 (NIV, bold print added)

Eve was Adam’s helper, and she gave him support, assistance so vital that, without it, he could not function.  

The word “suitable” describing Eve is the Greek word “neged”.  In this context, it means that Eve provided help that was the opposite of or contrasting to Adam.  This implies that God created Adam and Eve to work and fit together perfectly. The strengths of each made up for the weaknesses in the other. Together, Adam and Eve were more splendid than either of them could have been alone. Adam had to lose a rib, but he gained a wife that was made from his very own flesh.

Adam and Eve were the first married couple.  Adam was created by God from the dust of the ground, and Eve was created from Adam’s flesh.  God considered this first married man and woman “one flesh”.  He, likewise, continues to consider all Christian couples “one flesh”.

The concept of a husband and wife being seen as one flesh is also discussed in the New Testament.  Jesus also said a man and wife are one flesh.

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV, bold print added)

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.” Ephesians 5:28-30 (NIV, bold print added)

So, gentlemen, God considers you and your wife as one flesh.  Ladies, your husband and you are one flesh.

Husbands should love their wives as they love their own bodies.  A wife is not a separate entity: she is part of her husband.  Marriage is modeled on the relationship Jesus has with His Church (those who trust and obey Him).  The Church is His bride, and He is the Husband.  They are one body, with Jesus being the Head, and His Church being the body.  Likewise, in a Christian marriage, husband and wife are one body (one flesh).  Together they form one flesh; one body in the eyes of God.

A man gives great care to the most sensitive parts of his body.  His eyes, ears, teeth, skin and heart get a lot of special attention.  His wife also needs his special attention, because she is also a fragile, vital part of his body.  If he neglects or mistreats her, he will suffer along with her.  If he gives her plenty of special consideration and care, they will both benefit and be a happier couple.

In the Bible, we learn of the important role women have had since Adam and Eve. Both man and woman were made in God’s image.  Neither man nor woman is complete without the other.  They are one in the eyes of God.  If a man neglects his wife, he neglects himself.  If he denies his wife, he is denying himself.  If he is unkind to his wife, he is unkind to himself.  If he loves his wife, he loves himself.

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NAS)

 

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