The Temple Tax

Matthew 17 4-27

“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?” “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?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “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.” Matthew 17:24-27

 Why did Jesus pay the tax? How does this character apply today?

Pay the Temple tax was the yearly assessment that each Jewish male was obligated to pay (Ex. 30:11-16). This money was used to support the Temple and/or the local synagogue, and in Jesus’s time was not for other government use. (There were other taxes for that!) The tax was a half of a shekel in the OT, and two drachmas (Luke 15:8; Acts 19:19), which amounted to two days of a typical wage.  In Jesus’ day, since they were occupied by Rome, the Jews were not obligated to pay; therefore, only the devoted and those striving to please the religious leaders did so. After the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the Romans kept collecting this tax to pay the pagan temples by using force, further humiliating the Jews.

“Does your teacher?” The people who asked if Jesus paid the tax were trying to entrap Him by asking about His opinion on its value, or seeing if He paid it to His home synagogue (Matt. 21:12-14; 23:38-24:15; Luke 8:3). Jesus paid the tax, both to exercise His servant attitude and to avoid causing more trouble than He had to.

“What do you think?” Jesus quickly responds to Peter before the matter of taxes is even brought up!  Many OT prophets gave the answers before the question (1 Sam. 9:20; 1 Kings 14:6; 2 Kings 5:26; 6:32). Jesus’ argument is that the royal family does not tax itself; rather, strangers who are not royalty are the ones who are taxed. Jesus is the ultimate Royalty. This is God’s house and Jesus is God; therefore, He would not need to pay the tax. This was a logical argument and a cultural custom not to tax those who are exempt. The priests and attendants were exempt from the Temple tax by this argument (Mishnah: Shegalim 1:3-4).

Jesus shows His servant heart and that He is the hope for Israel. He did not need to pay, yet He did. His miracle was using a fisherman to retrieve a random fish that happened to have a coin in its mouth. There were many “fish stories” in Jesus’ time of fishermen, who had God’s approval, finding jewels in fish. Imagine Peter’s surprise when it happened to him!  “Piece of money” stater, refers to four drachmas or 4 denarii, enough for Jesus and Peter.

For us today? Christians should always focus on His Truth and not our rights.

Jesus proved that He was above and exempt from such a tax, but paid it anyway. He was exempt because He was God, and He was also exempt because He was a rabbi living by charity. He overrides His exemptions to prove His solidarity as a Jew, as a representative of humanity, as a servant, and as our Redeemer. As with people today, the early Christians and many disgruntled Jews did not want to pay the tax, and they lived in a foreign hostel occupied country; Jesus shows that how we feel is irrelevant.  It is how we are to be that matters.

The question that this passage asks in the form of the example of our Lord is, “Do you use people, or do you serve them?” Remember, Jesus was God, who came to this earth to serve!

Consider this, our relationship with Christ is our ultimate freedom; our home is to come, so while we sojourn in this world, we should conform to its policies as long as they do not contradict God’s policies (Acts 16:3; 21:26; Rom. 14: 13-21)

 What can you do to prevent robbing yourself of the opportunities God gives you?

 

Car buying tips from the top car guys:

car-buying-tips

Do not buy new; rather seek out a reliable car that is three or four years old, after ½+ the value is deprecated.

Then you will save tens of thousands of dollars. Cars today last many times longer than decades past. Also why not? A brand new car is bad #stewardship, unless you need it for work and will have it for more than ten years. It is way better to buy a good used car (like a Honda, Toyota, Subaru or some Fords, not a Chrysler or Fiat because of bad reliability or European, too much in maintenance), than new. Never lease unless your company gets a tax credit and pays for it. The math on a lease is never better than purchase. Can’t afford a three-year-old car? Any 4 cl Honda or Toyota, especially the Corolla and Camry’s that is well maintained, 94-07 is a best reliable bet.

Best reliable cars ever made? Toyota 4Runnres 99-02, and any early 4 cl 5 speed, if you can find one…took me months to get one… Also, diesel Mercedes if you can afford the maintenance; although better than new cars. Also, the Ford Crown Vic, is a beast and can last a million miles, as do Toyota Tacoma’s and Tundras if maintained right…

Stingy is Unfaithfulness

Stingy is Unfaithfulness b

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38

 

Read Matt. 25:14-30: Take a look at, “You wicked, lazy servant!” Now, what is the meaning of unfaithfulness?

Have you ever considered that when we are stingy with the resources God gives us we are being unfaithful? That we are betraying His trust, letting down our Lord and Savior?

Look at it this way, greed, stinginess, selfishness, and miserliness are the rotten fruits, because we hoard what God has given us, what He meant for us to share.

We do not use properly as Christ has given and called us to do. This blocks the flow of God’s blessings and His “living water” from flowing in us. We will become stagnant and useless to either the Kingdom or the people around us. Pride and arrogance will be the driving force-the quintessential things that God hates the most (Proverbs 6:16-18)!

When we are just stingy we are being self-seeking, we are selfish and unconcerned with eternal values or with serving our Lord. By doing this, we fall into a trap, because we are not doing as we should. As a result, natural consequences will take over. God’s precepts are for our benefit and protection; He gives us what is best for us, and we are to pass it on, just as loving parents would do for their child. By not placing ourselves first, we are able to place Christ first and we end up with a better deal. We can seek the His love, and this will compel us to share our richness as Christians with both ourselves and with others. So, out of our completeness in Christ, we can build ourselves up in Him, casting away what has hurt us, what causes us to fear, and what is wrong, replacing it all with biblical stewardship and values. This will be laid on the foundation upon which to create the lasting bonds with Christ and others, as we glorify our Lord and live in and for His Church (Prov. 10:12; Matt. 6:33; John 12:24; Eph. 5:15-21; Phil. 2:21; Col. 1:13).

  • Stewardship is the wise use of our materialistic goods and abilities, as well as with our time. Wasting time and resources and not sharing, in the eyes of the Puritans, was a sin, and that notion did not originate with them, but with God’s Word.
  • Stewardship is being neither reckless or hiding from our duty by playing it safe.

Read Psalm 24:1; Acts 20:35; 2 Cor. 9:7; James 1:17: What are the standards for stewardship we are to have?

  • Stewardship recognizes that we, as Christians, as well as everything in creation, belongs to God.
  • Stewardship is proportionate to what we are able to give. The poor person’s small gift is just as important as the rich person’s big gift! Sometimes, we cannot give as much as we would like to, due to economic realities, job loss, business not good, sickness, in fulltime ministry etc., so, we give honestly and efficiently whatever we can.
  • Stewardship is the giving of ourselves and our resources with joy and gratitude for what we have been given. Stewardship is not something that results from a forced obligation or a bad attitude. Giving should always be cheerful! If it is not, then you are not really giving–are you?
  • Stewardship is the comfort of knowing that everything comes from God. He gives us our clarity and the vision and character of what to be and do. We can trust in Him, and not in our materialistic goods.

When a Christian is giving from selfish motives, he or she expects a return for his or her “investment.” When a real, growing, mature Christian gives, he/she expects nothing in return. One investment is eternal, while the other so-called Christian investment is about the world of just for today.

Thus, a key aspect of stewardship and love means we are not selfish. How do we know if we get this right?

If you do not care for others outside of your circle, then you are demanding your own way because your pride is in the way of His Way, and sin is on its way to you and from you! Our lives will be a false dedication to things that are not centered upon His will. We cannot earn our way, but our way must reflect His work (Rom. 6:12; Eph. 5:15-17; Col. 3:5; 1 Pet. 2:24)!

 

Rethink your Giving

Rethink GivingAs we end 2015, now is a good time to rethink your giving.

 For we live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7 

Are you giving what’s right, or what’s left? 2 Corinthians 8-9

Is God blessing you? If so what are you giving back to your church, missions, or community? We can never just stay in the glory of great experiences and insights of worship and growth or even riches. There has to be a time when we take what we have learned and apply it. Not hoard, or be miserly with abundance.

How can we reset our thinking on stewardship? Be grateful for what you have and what Christ has done!

When the reality of Christ’s power and purpose hits us, we must also realize that others will not have the same beliefs and experiences. We see our friends with the latest phone or car or clothes or electric dog polisher, and we need to pray and ask, is it necessary? Then on the flip side, we will face the daily trivialities of life that seem to take a toll on us. We will face people who will reject us. We will try to put into practice what we have learned and we may fail. We can become frustrated and give up unless we focus, learn, and do not give up. We can best get through by our prayer life, and by our trust and reliance on His work!

Do not let your lack of willingness to grow in the faith rob you of His plan for you or rob what you are doing for others too. We can enjoy the mountain top or the wealth if you have it, but we also have to get busy in the valley where we live. When we do succeed, we need to be sure it is His success that is motivating us. Enjoying success and blessings is not a result of faith or what faith is about. Faith helps our relationship with God by bringing us closer to Him so He can use us more.

The Gospel is about One God Who is Sovereign and loves, while we are separated deeper and further than we can imagine from His salvation because of our sin. Yet, God is the One Who seeks us out with a love deeper and further than we can imagine and what to reconcile with us.

The Gospel is what we have that is true value. Remember, money and things are tools, not a lifestyle, Christ is to be our life and glorifying Him is to be our style. Our experiences and ideas tend to get in the way, so God has to sometimes knock us off our stool of pride and complacency, even greed, so we will look to Him (Job. 13:15; 2 Cor. 5:7).

Enjoying success and blessings is not a result of faith or what faith is about. Faith helps our relationship with God by bringing us closer to Him so He can use us more. Our experiences and ideas tend to get in the way, so God has to sometimes knock us off our stool of pride so we will look to Him (Job. 13:15; 2 Cor. 5:7).

What are you going to do so you do not let your lack of willingness to grow in the faith rob you of His plan for you?

 

The Best Financial Moves

Finance-RoundupWhat are the  best basic financial moves a Christian must make?  Here are the top six from Crown:

First, make giving to the Lord’s work your top financial priority. The Bible calls us to honor the Lord with the first fruits of our wealth.  I believe 10% of our gross annual income is the starting goal.

Next, have an Emergency Savings Account. Start with a $1,000.  Build it up to 3-6 months of your income to be prepared for unexpected expenses. It is more essential than a long-term retirement account.

Third, pay off debt. Consumer debt like credit cards, store accounts or loans from family and friends needs to go first. After that, pay off student loans and mortgage loans.

Fourth, have an up to date written will. If you don’t have a will, the government has one for you and you won’t like it. This is essential for married couples – especially those with children.

Fifth, be sure you have proper insurance coverage.  It is best to have some level of health, life and disability insurance.  Regarding your property, at a minimum protect against catastrophes.

Sixth, automate a long-term savings plan. If you company offers a matching plan, take advantage of the maximum benefit.

While investing and retirement planning are important, I find many people jump to that step and skip over some of these basics.  By covering this list first, you will be in a much better position to manage day-to-day financial challenges. Even more important is making giving your top priority. This step helps keep your financial priorities in order.

Chuck Bentley is the CEO of Crown, the largest Christian financial ministry in the world, founded by the late, Larry Burkett. visit Crown.org for more.

A lack of Generosity is a lack of Faith and Obedience!

Generosity faith

 Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”  Luke 7:41-42

Read Luke 7:36-50

God is generous with His grace, so we should be generous toward each other and be thankful. And finally to refuse to see His goodness and turn from sin, is the ultimate contempt to our loving Lord!

Generosity as a Scriptural definition, refers to giving without expectations in return. 

This attitude of Generosity produces our character allows us to give to others because God has given abundantly to us. It is the wise view and use of stewardship that all possessions belong to God. We are merely the caretakers for His purpose. It will see the Lord as the Source of true blessing, not our selfish desires.

(Deuteronomy 16:17; Proverbs 11:24-25; 13:7; Matthew 10:8; 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15)

To despise God is to refuse to acknowledge His sovereignty and work, as well as His generous gift of grace. Refusing to yield your life over to God’s will, will cost you greatly in judgment and in life; as God’s ways are better than ours!

The lack of Generosity will reflect a lack of faith and obedience! 

  • Giving generously involves much more than performing outward actions; it comes from what Christ is doing in the heart! True generosity must be motivated by a heart that is poured out in Christ.
  • When a Christian is giving from selfish motives, they expect a return in their “investment,” when a real growing mature Christian gives nothing is expected in return. As their investment is eternal, the other so called Christian investment is in the world of today.
  • The key to successful Generosityis the same as in our faith development, where being active is the deployment of our faith. See your faith and your stuff as products from God, where faith is His work in us, and our stuff and desires need to be His implements.
  • In the church as well as the world, we as Christians are the product demonstrates of the precepts of our LORD. We do this by words and by our actions of our character and fruitful and faithful living.
  • Be the difference, so others in your church can see our Living Lord in the mirror of yourself as you reflect Him! To reflect Him, we have to act, think, and be as He has called us (2 Cor. 5:20).

If you think there are no rivers coming into you, then seek what is blocking them. Is it sin, attitude, fear….?  God blesses those who steadfastly embrace His call, and who stay true to Christ.

Here is how you can find out. Take a careful look at this character and Fruit of Generosity from God’s most precious Word by examining the passages below. Now ask yourself:

  1. How do I exhibit Generosity in my daily life?
  1. What can I do to develop a mindset to know that all I have in life belongs to God, and, since He supplies all I have and need, I can model His grace through being Generous?
  1. What blocks me from being Generous?
  1. How can I make Generosity function better, stronger, and faster, even in times of uncertainly and stress?

Generosity is an example of our trust and reliance on God. Because He has given so much to us, way beyond what we can comprehend, we can therefore be charitable to others. 

Thus, Generosity is an act of worship–to model Christ, and see the big picture that goods and material things are not important, but relationships are. This goes to giving back to God, providing to those who have less, and making sure your church is modeling this character. A selfish church that does not give, and only sees themselves as a charity, will become a Dead Sea rather quickly. How sad and pathetic that would be–an unconcerned, uncaring, and self-absorbed quandary to the neighborhood, and a disgrace to the Kingdom!