And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.Matthew 17:24-27
I am not completely certain what tribute is being taken here but it would seem that it was one instituted by the Jews to pay for something in the Temple or synagogue service. There is nothing in the law that has a continual tribute to be paid. There was a one time tribute taken as recorded in Exodus, Chapter 30, that was given by all males twenty-years old and older. This was given in tribute of the need for atonement and was used in the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.
There were a few other occasions where this type of tribute was reinstituted temporarily such as during the days of King Joash to rebuild the Temple and during the time of Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Again, these occasions were temporary and for a specific purpose. However, over the process of time this charge became a permanent collection each year. They continued even until Titus Vespasian was Emperor and Jerusalem was destroyed. It was paid in the city where a person kept his main home. This is perhaps why it was only concerning Jesus and Peter in this case.
I guess “governments” have always acted this way. They will institute a “temporary” tax but then never stop collecting it, even after the need has passed. There was a man named Judas of Galilee who led a failed revolt against Rome in 6 A.D. for the same kind of “tax.” Our own American Revolution was fought over issues such as this, although much worse.
Jesus, as we will see later, shows us that there are some times when you obey and pay. It would seem that this was one of those occasions. So, as much as we hate paying taxes, we are called upon to be obedient to the government unless they are telling us to violate the word of God. Without going into great detail, I urge the reader to take a close look at Romans, Chapter 13 and see that we as Christians do have a responsibility to be law-abiding citizens in our natural residency.