August 9, 2021 - Need Money? Go Fish! - A Reflection on Matthew 17:22-27

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed. When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?” When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”

Jesus never does anything normally. But then why should he? He is God. Besides, normal is boring. Don’t you think? We have already seen many things that he did that were quite out of the ordinary, and here we find yet another story that’s out of orbit. The tax needs to be paid, but rather than take up a collection, Jesus sends the apostles fishing telling them they will find a coin in a fish’s mouth. What I really like about this story, however, apart from the unique method of getting money, is the lesson it teaches about how God provides for us, and in very unexpected ways. 

I have my own personal testimony about this, of course, and I’d like to share it with you. As most of you listening to these reflections probably know I found Jesus in a jail cell after I had lost everything in my life. My testimony is online if you feel like watching it. When I was released from jail I was heavily in debt and there were bills to be paid. One of the bills was to the real estate agent for my apartment. I issued four checks for each quarter. 

The first check was due to be presented for collection on the 1st of January. About a week from when it was due I began to panic a little but now I have God for a friend, so I go to my little prayer room and I tell him I need some money. I hear him say, “I’ll take care of it. Be still.” I was very happy that God was going to take care of my financial issue and I stood still. For all of 24 hours, then when there was no sign of my bank account getting mysteriously filled, I went to a friend, borrowed some money from him and deposited it into my account.

As I was doing this, I heard that voice go again: “Aneel, I told you to be still. Why couldn’t you trust me?”  I felt highly embarrassed. “Next time, Lord,” I said. “I’ll be still next time.” And I’m hoping there won’t be a next time, but three months later it is the same story. A check is due and there aren’t enough funds. There are seven days left for funds to be deposited. When I go to my prayer room, I hear the same thing. “I’ll take care of it. Be still.” I was still, this time for three days, but then my nerve broke and I went to a friend and borrowed money again. 

And again I heard this voice gently rebuking me. “Aneel, I told you to be still. When will you learn to trust me?” This time I felt ashamed. I had gotten to know God so well, it was really shameful that I didn’t trust him. “Okay, Lord,” I said, “I’ll be still.” But this time I mean it. I figured if they tossed me in jail, I’d evangelise the prisoners, but I wasn’t going to borrow anything from anyone. I was hoping, of course, it wouldn’t come to that, but when God wants to test you, he tests you. Three months later, it is the same story. Check due. Not enough funds. And the countdown begins. 7 days. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.  0. Nothing. I remain still.

Then, one hour before the banks are to open, there is a man standing at my doorstep with exactly the amount of money I need to cover my check. I had lent him the money years ago and that morning he had felt inspired to return it. That is the last time I have ever asked anybody for money - or anything. Why? Because I remember that at the one time when I needed money and there didn’t seem to be a chance of getting it from anywhere, not only did God give it to me, he had it hand delivered to my doorstep. And if he could do that once, he could do it again. And he has. 

So, all you need to do is remember what God has done in your life! Now remember that.