“Lest we cause them to stumble”

“Lest we cause them to stumble”

The Temple Tax supplied.

(The Gospel History, Section 74)

And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received the half-shekel came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay the half-shekel? He saith, Yea. And when he came into the house, Jesus spake first to him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? the kings of the earth, from whom do they receive toll or tribute? from their sons, or from strangers? And when he said, From strangers, Jesus said unto him, Therefore the sons are free. But, lest we cause them to stumble, go thou to the sea, and cast a hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a shekel: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

“Lest we cause them to stumble”

The shekel in the fish’s mouth
(The Saviour of the World, Vol IV, Book III, Poem LVI)

Silent and sorrowful the Company went,
Pondering the Master’s word with sinking hearts
And tardy comprehension. Once again,
Their steps turned to Capernaum, the blessed,
And the Lord made His abode in Peter’s house,
High honoured to receive Him; where was she
Late raised by Christ, His grace, from fevered bed,
Who would fain speak her love in household cares:
Did the Lord comfort there the sorrowing Twelve,
Or sat they there with Him, as those men of old
Sate silent with stricken Job?

Peter went forth

And was accosted by those men sent out
To gather from Israelites that Temple due
The legal half a shekel. “Doth not your Lord
Contribute to the general fund?” they ask,
Surmising that, perchance, for cause unknown
He might refuse this service to religion.

“He doth,” said Peter, knowing well his Lord
Neglected no observance that became
A pious Jew. But th’ Saint went home perplexed,—
Now where should he a shekel find? Full well
He knew that Christ no money owned—though He,
The Son of God most high! Entering the house
With anxious brow, the Lord discerns his care,—
Speaks first to him, or e’er he told a word:—
“What think’st thou, Simon, of whom do kings take toll,
From their own sons, or from the subject-folk,
The strangers, not their kin, o’er whom they rule?”
“Why, sure, from strangers.” “Therefore,” saith the Lord,
“The King’s own sons go free and share that State
The tributes of the people must support.”

Did Peter understand how the Lord had said,—
These Temple-dues are for God’s worship paid,
That th’ beauty of holiness may be set forth
By outward symbols in the Temple: See,
I and the Father are one; that worship paid
By pious souls to God, is paid to Me—
One with the Father, sharing all His dues:
Is’t fit that I contribute toward those rites
Ye Jews pay punctual to God—and Me?

“But we may not impede these men in their task,
Nor give them cause for anger or harsh words,
Misjudging thee and Me: so their offence
Were laid at our door who had made them sin:—
Go thou to Gennesareth and cast a hook;
Draw the first fish to land, nor pause to ask
Is’t small or great; when thou hast ope’d his mouth,
A shekel thou shalt find; that take and pay
To the men—just Temple-dues for thee and Me.”

St. Matthew xvii. 24-27.