I’ve been thinking A LOT about the significance of “value” for a few weeks now… “what does it mean? How is it defined?“ When I wake up and decide to drink some water, take in sustenance; I don’t naturally think to myself… “why am I doing this?”. I just do it. But thinking about it now, it feels as though I’m a slave to this…“value system”. Things just don’t add up. “Is this our purpose in life?” Wake up and use the restroom, drink water, eat food, calculate your contribution to life and go to work. “Where is the value?”, I wonder. I’ve decided to detach myself from what I think the meaning of value is in the world and take on a different approach. “What if I choose to go to work without earning money?” The idea is to work as though I wasn’t going to receive a paycheck, that may sound stupid but in principle, it’s not. Money is not God, it is a necessary tool of prerogative for not offending the world governed by such a value system (as though it is God). Let me explain.
In the gospel according to Matthew 17:24-27; my understanding from research is that the temple tax collectors came to Capernaum and confronted Peter about Jesus paying the temple tax (that apart from the priests every Jew 20 years and above was required to pay) which is basically contributing to the upkeep of the temple (where God dwells). And seeing how Jesus and the apostles were not considered priests of the temple, they too were required to pay this tax according to the custom of old testament law. However, let’s investigate what Jesus says and does about this temple tax collection considering how Jesus is actually, the ultimate Priest. The power of the priest is found in virtue, not money. Observe…
24 When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” 25 He *said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. 27 However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in 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 you and Me.”
Now according to google and the coinmill converter, a shekel today is worth 0.29 cents of the United States Dollar. There is so much I want to dive into with this idea of currency, but what fascinates me presently is the measure of value exchange between the Israelite’s and their temple priests collecting this two-drachma tax at that time. According to my research—specifically amazing discoveries—in Exodus 30 and Numbers 3 we find the reason for this contribution to the temple.
“11 The LORD also spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the LORD, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them. 13 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD. 14 Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the LORD.” (Exodus 30:11-14)
44 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 45 “Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel and the cattle of the Levites. And the Levites shall be Mine; I am the LORD. 46 For the ransom of the 273 of the firstborn of the sons of Israel who are in excess beyond the Levites, 47 you shall take five shekels apiece, per head; you shall take them in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), 48 and give the money, the ransom of those who are in excess among them, to Aaron and to his sons.” (Numbers 3:44-48)
But why did Jesus make a point to question Peter about the collection of customs? Who are the kings of the earth? And why did Jesus say that the …sons are exempt? It sounds to me like Jesus is clarifying a point for Peter to recall later. Are all Israelites exempt from such customs? The answer is yes, but it was not time for that answer to come into fruition yet. The next phrase from Jesus is of most importance because it gives revelation to the meaning of value. “However, so that we do not offend them…“, but why? Why not offend these collectors with the truth about the pointlessness of this contribution?