Matthew 17:24-27 – It’s Like Running on a Treadmill While Eating a Candy Bar

Posted: January 31, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 17:24-27 (Part 3)
The Temple Tax

Today, we conclude our look at “the Temple Tax passage,” Matthew 17:24-27. When I think of the final part of our look at this passage, I think about one of my own mighty struggles in life – my dissatisfaction with my weight. I am not morbidly obese or anything and am in generally good health. But I hate my weight. I want to  lose about 30 lbs of my current weight. Many people that I know now in this phase of my life did not know me prior to 5 ½ years ago. Many of them do not know that I was once a much slimmer man of 180 lbs. a mere 10 0r so years ago. A combination of age, slower metabolism, and eating like I am still in my 20’s has combined to make me a man of 228 lbs. now. In the last 2 years, I have come to realize and desire that I need to lose weight. I have begun to exercise most weekday mornings – walking on the treadmill from 30 to 60 minutes each morning and lift weights from 15 minutes to 30 minutes each day. The only time that I have time to do this is by getting up early enough that I am on the treadmill by 5am. It is tough to get up 4:45am, I will tell ya particularly in the wintertime. However, for all the exercising that I have done these past 24 months, I may be only maintaining my weight and not losing weight. Outside of my limited exercise routine, I have not changed any of my eating habits. It is the calorie intake that is the problem. I am not burning enough calories to offset my calorie intake. I enjoy eating good food and my wife, Elena, is an awesome cook. Our dinners are tasty treats and I love ‘em. Also, because of the way meats and vegetables and such are packaged these days, it is often more than two people can eat wisely. We end up have multiple serviings of the food Elena prepares. And, then, there’s what Elena and I call our 10:00pm grazing. Even if we eat a light at dinner, we have gotten into the habit of eating snacks around 10pm. Then, we stay up too late – never going to be before 11pm each night. We want to lose weight. I want to lose weight but we are not doing the things we need to do to make that happen. I cannot stand what I call “frew-frew food” that is healthy for me. I should food with less calories and eat less food.

It is a struggle of mighty proportions. I talk a good game but my execution is way off. I talk a good game about the need and the desire to lose weight but when it comes down to changing my lifestyle and my habits to make that happen, I fail. I do not do what it takes to make it happen. I don’t want to be overweight. I desperately want to get back to the weight I had as late as when I was in my mid-forties. Back then, I was a confident man with a much better bodily physique. I looked good in my clothes and prided myself in how handsome I was. But now when I look in the mirror, I see the younger me in my mind but the reality of the reflection is displeasing. Yet, I struggle with the necessary disciplines to make the weight go away. It is depressing. I want desperate to get 30 lbs. off my frame, but am I willing to quit eating the way that I do? It’s like running on a treadmill while eating a candy bar. There is a relationship to my weight loss desire but failed execution and something we see in this passage of Matthew 17:24-27. So, let’s re-read the passage:
24 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?”

25 “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?”

26 “From others,” Peter answered.

“Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “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.”

Why did the Lord put it on my heart to share my struggles with getting this weight off my body and this passage? I think it has to do with the fact that the point He wants me to make this morning is that The Lord will provide for us but we must participate in the process.

Notice in this passage that Jesus did not miraculously make a coin appear right in the middle of the conversation with Peter as to whether the tax should be paid or not. To obtain the coin, Peter had to leave his house and go fishing. Peter had to put himself out to go get the coin. Peter not only had to leave the house but he had to work. He not only had to work he had to work in a specific way – using a fishing pole and a hook rather than the nets for catching multiple fish that Peter used normally. Peter had to participate in the process of gaining God’s provision. Just as if I am ever going to lose these extra 30 or 40 lbs., I must really change the way I do things, not just talk about it. I must do what is necessary to be done to lose this weight. Peter likewise was required to participate in the process by doing what his Master told him to do. It would be too easy for me to lose weight by liposuction without changing my behavior. Many of us expect God to give us liposuction miracles but we are not willing to do the hard work of participating in the miracle. We want a miracle but we don’t want to change our life. We want a miracle but we do not want to step out of our comfort zone.

Do you want better finances and beg the Lord to help you get there? But do you make the fundamental changes in your spending that bring about change. Do you want fundamental change in your marriage but are not willing to change anything about yourself? Do you want to change careers but are not willing to put in the effort to make the changes? Are you like a teenager who thinks they are entitled to their parent’s lifestyle but yet are not willing to put in the lifetime of hard work that their parents have put in to make that lifestyle possible? Do you want healing from your drug addiction but yet still do nothing to change your lifestyle or the people you hang around with. We must make the fundamental changes. We must take steps to change. God cannot give us miracles when we are not in position to receive them.

If we expect God to provide us with miracles in our finances, we must do the things that God tells us to do. Just like my weight issues did not just magically appear overnight, our financial struggles took a while for us to get into. Years of bad spending and not saving and living beyond our means often cause to get into a financial jam where we beg God for a miracle. In order for God to give us a way out of our financial jungle we must begin by taking care of business. Instead of taking a vacation with our tax refund, we pay off debt. Instead of continuing to spend the way we used to, we must begin to spend less. Stay home for dinner instead of going out. Restraining our impulse buys and thinking of our goal of financial freedom. Do you want to tithe to the Lord each Sunday? How can you when you live off of 104% of what you make and you buy cars that are beyond your means and houses that are more than you can afford? We must get our spending under control and slowly pay off those debts and begin to live more modestly. We take steps to spend less. And then the miracle happens, when we do what needs to be done. We get to the point that we can start being obedient to the Lord in our giving. That’s the miracle is learning obedience and learning self-discipline. Many of us want to tithe but we are not willing to make the lifestyle changes in our spending to make that happen.

Some of us out there want better marriages and complain that our spouses don’t meet our needs. Yet, are we willing to put ourselves out to make the marriage better. Are we willing to examine ourselves and see where we could be better spouses? We would rather complain or give up and blame our spouse for our marital problems. We beg God for a miracle in our marriage but we are not willing to change ourselves, not willing to examine ourselves and see where we are being selfish, not willing to do what is necessary. We want the marriage to come to us instead of us coming to the marriage – making self-sacrifices to make the marriage better. How many of us out there are like that?

How many of us out there reading this right now want God to deliver them from drugs or alcohol but are not willing to change playgrounds and playmates? Are you continuing to put yourself into positions where you will continue to abuse drugs or alcohol? Do you still enjoy that party lifestyle and are not really willing to do anything to change. Do you think that God is going to provide the miracle if you are not willing to walk away from that lifestyle? God wants us to make changes in our lives sometimes so that we can have the miracle we desire.

I am not talking about performance for grace here. Please don’t walk away from reading this and think that is what I am espousing here. We do not earn grace. It is a free gift given to us by God that we do not deserve and can never do enough to earn. What I am talking about here is participating in the miracles that God gives us. We must be able to make fundamental changes in our lives sometimes to be able to receive the miracles we desire. That is the miracle more so than the miracle given. When we are obedient to the Lord, that is the miracle. Sometimes, we have made such a mess of our lives that we have to make radical changes to get back in line with God’s will for our lives. That’s the miracle. The acts of obedience and trust in the Lord is the miracle. Peter would have never found the coin if he did not go fishing. When we have made a mess of our lives because of our self-centeredness, God expects us to do the hard work to clean up the mess. He will bless us when we are obedient but we have to do the hard work of cleaning up our lives sometimes. We made our beds that we lie in and we must make changes. God could zap and zing and bam we have our miracle but sometimes He wants us to learn some life lessons along the away. He wants us to see that our own self-centeredness caused our problems. He wants us to struggle to clean up our life messes so that we can see the value of obedience. Sometimes, we let our own children learn the consequences of bad decisions so that they will learn not to make those same mistakes in the future. We could fix it for ‘em sure! But what would they learn the next time around. God wants us to participate in the miracles that He provides us and sometimes the participation is the miracle. We learn obedience to Him and that’s the miracle.

Peter would have never gotten the coin if he had said, “Jesus I will get to it later!” or “Jesus I just want to chill out here at the house, can you just make a coin appear right here, right now?” Are you willing to do what it takes to participate in the miracle that you seek from God? Are you willing to make the fundamental changes in your life to enjoy the miracle that you seek? We must listen and obey our Lord and in the obedience we find the miracle.

Amen and Amen.

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