Daily Devotion for November 7, 2009
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Prayer for the Morning
Oh Lord, most heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who has safely brought me to the beginning of this day; I give you thanks for my creation, preservation, and all the blessings of my life. Grant that this day I fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all my doings, being governed by your will, may be righteous in your sight. Through Christ our Lord, I pray.
Prayer for Grace and Strength
Lord God, I pray that you will fill my heart with the blessing of your Holy Spirit. Grant me this day the strength to be temperate in all things, diligent in my duties, and patient under my afflictions. Direct me in all my ways. Give me grace to be just and upright in all my dealings; quiet and peaceable; full of compassion; and ready to do good to all people, according to my abilities and opportunities. For the sake of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
Community of Prayer
Heavenly Lord, I know I am not alone saying these prayers or reading your Word this morning, but many people unknown to me, from all stations of life, have joined together in this brief moment of devotion. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be among the community of all who pray in the name of Christ this morning, and remain among us always.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
Gospel of Matthew, 17:24-27
The half-shekel tax
When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the half-shekel approached Peter, and said, "Isn't your teacher going to pay the half-shekel?" Peter said, "Yes."
When he arrived at the house, Jesus spoke first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? The kings of the earth, from whom do they receive tolls and tribute: from their sons, or from strangers?" And when he answered, "From strangers," Jesus said, "Therefore the sons are free. But, to keep them from stumbling, go to the sea. Cast a hook, and catch the first fish that comes up. When you open his mouth, you will find a shekel; give it to them for you and me."
Comment on the Scripture
The half-shekel tax goes all the way back to Exodus 30:11, when every Jew over twenty years paid an annual donation of "half a shekel for an offering to the Lord." This appears to have become a fixed tradition of early Hebrew life (2 Chr. 24:6).
When the era of kings arrived, the Hebrews began to pay civil taxes (1 Kings 4:7; 9:15; 12:4), which continued (in increasing amounts) to be paid to whoever was in power, including conquering empires such as Rome. In the New Testament the payment of taxes, imposed by lawful rulers, was an obligation accepted by Hebrews and early Christians (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13, 14).
It isn't completely clear what tax is demanded from Jesus and Peter, as Roman Judea collected taxes (telos) and tribute (kensos) on travellers, merchandise, property, and a "poll-tax". But it would appear, since the amount is called only "the half-shekel", to refer to a temple tax that had originated in the ancient half-shekel obligation for the temple.
Christ also makes a rather cryptic statement about his and Peter's status; he says that they are "sons" of the kings, not "strangers", and therefore free of the obligation. It would make little sense for Christ, whose body has actually become the temple of the new convenant, to pay a temple tax. But to keep the locals from falling into the sin of requiring a tax from Christ that he was not obligated to pay, Peter is told to catch a fish, which will supply a coin he can give to them.
A literary scholar might find a connection here, because Peter's original mission was to become a "fisher of men". Perhaps this foreshadows Peter's role as the foundation of the church after Christ's death, when he could accept donations in the name of Christ.