Matthew 17:24–27 ESV

24 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?”
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 kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”
26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.
27 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.”

The passage before us this morning urges a discussion on a subject that has occupied my mind for a very long time. It is the subject concerning money, but not about money in general or our proclivity to it. Rather, this is the subject about your money and how you must tithe to the welfare of the local church.

In his sermon on Authentic Ministry, Doug Wilson once noted that there are two kinds of preachers – those that always preach on money, and those that avoid preaching about money. I suppose that I have the tendency to be among the latter.

So, upon arriving at this text, I pondered a while on the issue. There have been many instances where I’ve considered addressing this subject in a sermon but I feel I’ve long prolonged it for these 5 reasons (there may be more, but these 5 come easily to my mind) –

1. In these short years of my ministry, I have heard a thousand opinions from godly, bible-believing, God-centred Christians, each one stumbling over the other, contradicting or conflicting in ways that for the most part, it seemed like a complex knot to untie at every stage. Trying to relate all that with what the Bible teaches wasn’t an easy task. But I did the best I can.

2. This is a very sensitive subject. There are many things a preacher can say but there are very specific things that many feel he doesn’t have the right to probe.

But this is farthest from the truth. There is nothing under the sun, in the visibility of existence that a preacher cannot addresses because he who preaches the Bible must preach about everything under the sun because the Bible addresses everything under the sun.

The Bible is for equipping a man for every good work, making him complete. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

2 Timothy 3:16–17 ESV

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Every good work and completion requires the addressing of everything he views under the sun. The Bible is all of Christ for all of life.

Although I’ve always recognised this , I wanted to make sure that I had my head reasonably wrapped around the Biblical sensitivity to this subject and I have found quite surprisingly, contrary to my expectations, that the Bible has no sensitivity when it comes to the subject. It is blatantly direct and clearly portrayed. The scripture is not cautious when it talks about money, its purpose, its use. If we printed out every verse in the Bible about money, that sheet will probably provoke everyone in this room one way or another. Every point of view is challenged.

And one reason why that happens, I believe, is because the Bible never talks about money as the object of our need or satisfaction.

We often the think of money as the object of our reward, instead of seeing it as a tool for our stewardship.

So, the Scriptures are not so concerned about hurting our sensitivities when it comes to the matter because that piece of coloured paper in your hands is nothing more than a tool.

That is also to say, that if you don’t hear me carefully in this sermon, then the chances are high that you will misunderstand what I’m saying.

Let me give you a flavour of that with this statement – “I, as your pastor, do not want your money, but if I did, I wouldn’t be sinning.” In fact, it is a righteous and gracious thing for a pastor to encourage his church to provide for him.

Edgy? I know. Truth often is.

3. The negative sentiment that permeates throughout our culture that Pastors are out to become rich off of their flocks. Now, there is a lot of truth here with regards to the many abuses and biblical misrepresentations of the prosperity false-gospel that has invaded much of Christendom.

In other words, there are indeed plenty of pastors out there whose sole intention is to preach selfishly, to amass wealth and comforts for themselves. Those blind guides who, in the name of Jesus, serve mammon. Matthew 6:24

Matthew 6:24 ESV

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

The only problem here is that the activity of the flock giving to the pastor is not inherently sinful. We must always remember, the abuse of something good is never a reason to throw out that good along with the abuse.

Doug Wilson talks about sin as a parasite. It cannot exist by itself, it always needs something good to corrupt. Therefore, every sin is a perversion of something good. Our fight against this sin must not take away the good gifts God has given us.

This negative sentiment has had me most confused about how exactly I should go around addressing the subject of your money.

4. My own spiritual maturity was another concern. The sin that many pastors have fallen into is one that pursues me as well. 1 Peter 5:8

1 Peter 5:8 ESV

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

I wanted to be reasonably sure that I was resolved in my own mind as to the extent to which I, personally, am willing to go and where my own standing must be in all this.

5. The final point is connected to this last one in that I have not taken any salary from the church since the beginning. I have a full-time job as a software engineer and that is my primary and only source of income. And as time goes on I get asked repeatedly with greater frequency when I’m going to be a full time pastor. (Note that the question mostly is not ‘if’ but ‘when’, because for most people that is the inevitable outcome in the end).

Now, I’ve wrestled with these questions myself, and although it is really impossible for me to know for certain how God will shape my future in this regard, I highly doubt I’ll ever stop being a software engineer. However, I firmly disagree with the opinion that the inevitable outcome is one way.

I’ve titled my sermon, as you can see in your service sheets, ‘Tax, Tithe & Tent-Making’.

I want to start by thanking God that I am amongst generous folk. Many of you are more generous than I would have hoped. But we are a growing church now, and I do not know where all your hearts stand with regard to this subject. So, I want this sermon to be an encouragement to all of you.

Look with me for a moment to Acts 2:44-46

Acts 2:44–46 ESV

44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.
46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,

When we read that, two things can happen. One, some of you might think, “Hmmm. Is the preacher going to require us to sell our possessions and bring the proceeds to the church?”. Two, the preacher might think, “If I take them to this text will the people think that I’m requiring them to sell their possessions and bring it to the church?”.

Let us both abandon that thought. The question here is not of ‘requirement’ but of ‘willingness’. If ‘need’, not want, not ambition, but need arose in the body of Christ, would you be willing to ‘sell’ your comforts for the sake of meeting that need?

The early church did this with ‘glad’ and ‘generous’ hearts. That is what I want you to see most of all. Their gladness and generosity were poured out upon one another in the form of selling their belongings if it came to that.

If we did this today, the world will call us crazy. Many Christians will call us crazy. We might call ourselves crazy just thinking about it. But this actually happened and they weren’t crazy, they were recorded in the pages of the Bible and will forever be remembered.

My desire here, is to dive deep, and give you, in some detail, the theological framework that will help you understand what to do with your finances – tithing and taxes being a solid component of that.

Now, what this is not is a training in financial management. Rather, it is training in the biblical principles of wealth, and it is your Christian prerogative (or privilege) and responsibility how you use these principles to manage your money according to your income and specific circumstances.

I want to talk about the biblical blessings, obligations and encouragements with regards to how you utilise your finances.

Beloved, the money in your hands, like your many giftings and talents, does not belong to you. It has been given to you for the wise stewardship of all the resources God has given you.


Matthew 17:24 ESV

24 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?”

• The time was close to the feast of the Passover and so the temple leaders had sent out collectors to go and collect what was known as the two-drachma tax, which was a taxation that the Romans had allowed the Jewish leaders to collect for covering the costs of temple services. This temple tax was originally prescribed in Exodus 30:13

Exodus 30:13 ESV

13 Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as an offering to the Lord.

Two-drachma came up to a shekel which meant it covered the tax for two people.

• So, some of these collectors cornered Peter, curious to know if Jesus paid the tax. Since much of what Jesus taught opposed the Jewish leadership, they wondered if he would go so far as to not pay the tax that God had instituted for the people of Israel.

Even now, these people sought to trap Jesus one way or another.

Matthew 17:25 ESV

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 kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”

• Peter knew that Jesus paid this tax, and so responded to them without hesitation.

• Now, when Peter came into the house, even before he utters a word Jesus was waiting to address the question.

• The Sovereign Lord knew what Peter encountered out in the marketplace and waited for his return to help him reason through it. I wonder if Peter himself thought how it was supposed to work when the Son of God has to pay taxes.

Whatever Peter thought, Jesus asks him a question before Peter could speak to Jesus, “What do you think, Simon?”

• Now, I want to stop here for a moment to say that I love pictures like this in the Bible. Here is Peter out in the marketplace, exposed to the challenging questions of the world and returns home to find Jesus ready to help him tackle the problem.

What do you think? – Brothers, the Gospel power is manifest in the Christian by the renewing of their mind (Romans 12:1). Thinking through things is not an optional for the Christian, it’s the norm. Jesus was not all about giving easy answers but to help people arrive at the truth through the reasoning and understanding and enlightenment of their minds.

• And the question for thought is regarding whom the kings of the earth levy taxes upon. In almost every monarchy in history, the king would levy tax on the people of his nation, and he would benefit from it. It was the price of his leadership and protection. While he levied the tax upon the people, his own children live under his provision, and so it would be a ludicrous notion for them to pay taxes, for it was akin to him paying taxes to himself.

So, the point of Jesus’ questioning was to show the ludicrous notion that he was expected to pay the taxes that His Father instituted. He and the Father are one. From the standpoint of the law, Jesus was pretty much paying himself.

Matthew 17:26–27 ESV

26 And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.
27 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.”

• Simon knew the answer to that one. The sons are free and such an obligation does not fall on him.

• Then the most fascinating thing occurred. Jesus, in order to avoid offending the Jews unnecessarily, he meets their laughable requirement with a laughable sign. As out of place as God paying taxes is, so also was the miracle Jesus performed in fulfilling that requirement. The irrational requirement was met with an irrational sign.

From this, Peter would have understood one basic principle. There is a time to offend, of necessity, and there is a time to not cause offense. Understanding this well enough is a clear sign of one’s spiritual maturity.

Now, this story is part of a much larger theme – regarding taxes. Here, Jesus gives us one principle of how to deal with taxation with our income. What exactly then is taxation and did Jesus approve of it? When did this begin and what are the biblical principles that surround it. Answering these questions will better help us grasp the joyful delights of this passage.

But, here is the first principle.

Principle 1 – Jesus tended to avoid offense when it came to this subject. He teaches us to give if that giving will avoid offense.

The reason I say ‘tended’ to avoid rather than ‘avoided’ is because there is no reason to believe that there is no possible circumstance under which a person can refuse to pay taxes. There may be exceptional circumstances where the righteous thing to do is not to avoid the confrontation.

However, as far as possible, we are encouraged to lean to peace as he did when it comes to taxes. But, you may point out that this tax was levied upon Israel by God in the OT, and does not refer to a general public tax, like the Roman taxation. And you would be right.

In other words, the word we use for God instituted taxes is ‘tithe’, and tax usually refers to something that is government imposed. So, let us look at Mark 12:14-17,

Mark 12:14–17 ESV

14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”
15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.”
16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.”
17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.

As you can see, this is what upholds the first principle of tending to avoid unnecessary offense.

A Theology of Wealth

Let me give you a brief theology of wealth. I borrow here a lot from Doug Wilson.

• The first thing we must realise is that this piece of paper that is worth a 100 Rupees cost 1.5 Rupees to make. Now, as a society, as a nation, we have conferred upon it a value of 100 Rupees, and we use this as our monetary tool for all our financial interactions.

This is no more or no less a tool than a hammer, or a mosquito racket, or a spatula. It is only a means to an end and not the end. It is not the source of anything – whether it be our happiness or our sorrow. We can love this tool, hate this tool, play with it, bow before it, set it on our altars, worship it, trample it, destroy it, or store it up and it will have no feelings about it whatsoever. Our emotions around money are often times like a little girls emotion is around her dolls. They have tea parties, conversations and go to bed hugging their little dolls.

Listen to me beloved, it is a lifeless tool that has no purpose until it is used by your hands. Money has never destroyed or saved a life, ever. Men have destroyed and saved lives by good and bad stewards of this tool. When man praises money or he despises it, money is not responsible for any of the damage to the world. Man is. As Doug says in his book, we tend to associate sin with the stuff than with ourselves.

1 Timothy 6:10 ESV

10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

• The root of all kinds of evils is in our affections, not in money. You can blame money all you want, but you are the problem.

1 Timothy 6:17–19 ESV

17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.

18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share,

19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

• Notice that the text says that riches are what God provides us with to enjoy. The enjoyment we have in our money comes from how we use it. We enjoy by spending it and purchasing what we want, or we enjoy the security it brings when we store it up.

• But here, Jesus highlights another way we are to enjoy riches. Through generosity, in sharing our riches with others. Such an activity is better security than storing all our money in FDs and RDs.

So, here are four more principles,

Principle 2 – Money is not the object of our joy or sorrow. It is only a tool, a very useful tool given by God for our enjoyment.

Principle 3 – We are not to turn money from a tool into the very object of our delight. The love for money is the root of all kind of evils. The sin here is on the part of the individual and not money itself.

Principle 4 – We need to think of money as wealth and not currency. Because wealth is more than just money, wealth is in all the riches whether it be technology, skills, knowledge. Our wealth is far more than our bank balance.

Principle 5 – Riches are meant to be shared, and generosity has a far greater pay off than savings. Giving is an act of enjoyment.

• So, money is given to us for our enjoyment. And that enjoyment must manifest in our generosity.

Tithe – the origin

Now, as God provided all the riches for the nation of Israel, he imposed upon them three taxes in the OT.

• When the 12 tribes of Israel came into the promised land, God instructed 11 of those tribes to work and earn, to make money for their livelihood and God blessed them. But to one tribe, the Levites, God said in Numbers 18:20-22

Numbers 18:20–22 ESV

20 And the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel.
21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting,
22 so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die.

This was the first tax and it was called a tithe because the word tithe literally means one-tenth. So the other tribes had to take a one-tenth on their annual income and give it for the welfare of the Levites and for their services in the tent of meeting. In fact, the Levites themselves were asked to take one-tenth of what they get and in turn give that to the High Priest.

• The second tax was to aid goods and supplies for all the thanksgiving feasts of Israel. Deuteronomy 14:23-29

• The third tax was to aid the poor, Deuteronomy 14:29

Deuteronomy 14:29 ESV

29 And the Levite, because he has no portion or inheritance with you, and the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow, who are within your towns, shall come and eat and be filled, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands that you do.

Theologians disagree on whether God intended each of these taxes to be a one-tenth each or was it one tax that provided for each. But in either case, this is how God levied taxes upon Israel. These taxes are no longer imposed upon the church in the NT, but can we not learn from the clear principles of how God intended for our income to be spent.

Principle 6 – It is a good 3-step framework to provide for the elders of the church whose service is to minister to the congregation, and to cover the costs of the expenses for our gatherings and feasts, and to provide for the poor and the needy.

Tithing in the NT

Free Will Offering

• The OT allowed for free will tithing.

• A lot of people talk about tithing in the NT as solely to the cause of the furtherance of the Gospel ministry rather than to these things. But as we move from the OT to the NT, the general rule of thumb is that we’re not going into less but into more.

From murder to hatred in the heart, from adultery to looking at a woman lustfully, from one-tenth to abundant generosity, the NT is about more and not less.

So our giving in the NT is not to be narrowed down to one but should be expanding on all fronts. This is what we see happening in the life of the churches in the NT.

2 Corinthians 8:1–7 ESV

1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia,
2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part.
3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord,
4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints—
5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.
6 Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace.
7 But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.

Obligation vs Freedom

• Theologians talk about whether the church in the NT is obligated to tithe or free to tithe. I believe that our freedom obligates us to tithe generously.

1 Corinthians 9:13–14 ESV

13 Do you not know that those who are employed in the temple service get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in the sacrificial offerings?
14 In the same way, the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel.


1 Corinthians 9:15–16 ESV

15 But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting.
16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!

Acts 20:33–35 ESV

33 I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel.
34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.
35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”