"Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." (Matthew 17:27)

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?” “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?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “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.” (Matthew 17:24-27)

Why did Jesus tell Peter to pay the tax?

Jesus had just made a case for not being responsible for the temple tax. Why then did he tell him to pay it?

Because Jesus did not want to cause a commotion. He didn't want to squabble about a four drachma coin - worth about two dollars in today's money.

Jesus used the occasion to teach about who he was and the fact that they were serving God and therefore not responsible for the tax. They were already paying in the form of teaching on behalf of the Supreme Being.

What does Jesus mean by 'exempt'?

The NIV translation says that Jesus says, "Then the children are exempt".

This word "exempt" is being translated from the Greek word ἐλεύθερος (eleutheros) - meaning "freeborn - in a civil sense, one who is not a slave" according to the lexicon.

Thus Jesus is stating that those who are serving the Supreme Being are free. They are not obligated to the same responsibilities and consequences as those who are attached to the names and forms of this temporary physical world.

Further to the lesson is the fact that Jesus is making a point about the relationship between the Supreme Being and His devoted children/loving servants. Just as a king would consider his own children and servants exempt from taxation, the Supreme Being covers and protects his devoted loving servants.

To the extent of our devotion to the Supreme Being, the Supreme Being gives complete protection against the calamities of the world.

God certainly takes care of every one of us, but for those who work diligently in His service, He takes special care.

Why do we suffer then?

One might question the first statement due to the many forms of suffering within the physical world, including violence, pain, sickness, old age, and death. But these are only temporary sufferings that take place for the physical body. They do not inflict the spirit-person within.

We are not these material bodies. We are the eternal spirit-person that lives within this body. Much as a person gets into an automobile to drive it, each of us resides within this physical body for a temporary period of time. And just as the car will break down one day, this physical body will become diseased and die. And just as the driver walks away from a broken-down car, each of us will leave these physical bodies at the time of death.

We might compare the situation to a computer video game, wherein a person sits down at the computer and takes on a temporary game icon, and begins to play the game. The icon might be shot up or blown up, but the person playing the game is unharmed. When the game stops, the person can get up from the computer and walk away unscathed, even though his icon got blown to smithereens.

Thus even though our physical body might be smitten with pain and suffering - we are still being protected and cared for by the Supreme Being. He is still here next to us - always offering us a way back home to Him.

In other words, we are each endowed with the freedom of choice - whether we want to love and serve the Supreme Being (our innate identity) or whether we want to love and serve ourselves - which is expressed within the physical world.

The latter results in the fall down to the physical world and coming under the illusion of misidentifies ourselves with these physical bodies while we seek self-centered pleasure for the body or its extensions - the body's family, country, or other organization. In such a state, we must be obliged to face the consequences of these activities.

In other words, those who are living self-centered lives devoted to the illusions of fame and fortune of this temporary body and the forms and names of the physical world will have to abide by the laws of cause and effect.

But those who are using these physical bodies to serve the Supreme Being are exempt from these consequences. For those, He gives special protection because they are working for His pleasure instead of their own pleasure. Jesus spoke to this point specifically:
"By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me." (John 5:30)
Jesus was also respectful and considerate. He could have tried to escape the tax. Instead, he told Peter that their tax payments would be found in the mouth of a fish.

Jesus is illustrating that by Peter following the instructions of Jesus - as a devoted disciple - Peter would not be responsible for working to get the tax money. His payment was still being covered by the Supreme Being - Who in this case was providing the money in a miraculous manner to prove the point.

This doesn't mean that God will always provide in such a miraculous manner. Most of the time, we will still need to do some work to earn the money to pay our share of tax. But the point being made is that God takes care of those who care for God.

This is because the Supreme Being ultimately owns and controls everything.