"Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" (Matt. 17:24-25)To Jesus' question above, Peter answered, "From others." (17:26)
"Yes, he does," he replied. (Matt. 17:25)
Jesus is utilizing the situation as a teaching moment. Jesus is illustrating the intimate relationship between God and His loving servants - and comparing this relationship with the relationship of a son to his father - of which in this case is also a king.
So the point Jesus is making to Peter is that if a person is subservient to God, then he falls within God's house and comes under God's protection, and is not obligated to the general obligations of the physical world.
This can also be understood as the forgiveness of past sins, and a lack of sinfulness going forward - meaning becoming purified.
There are several Greek words that have been translated to "sin" in the texts of the Bible:
- "paraptoma" to fall.
- "hamartia" to miss the mark.
- "hettema" to diminish.
- "parabasis" to cross the line.
- "amonia" to not abide.
- "parakoe" to refuse to heed.
- "agnoeema" to ignore.
Taken as a whole, there are two aspects of sin. The act of sinning is to be acting in a self-centered way: Acting selfishly, in other words. When we act selfishly, we produce the results of sin: As we sow, so shall we reap, in other words. Whatever we do selfishly will have to be paid for down the line within the physical world. This is the law of cause and effect in the physical world.
We can see this effect immediately if we hurt someone: We will likely be hurt back by them or by an authority. This is part of the law of cause of effect in the physical world.
This means that all of our activities that are performed with self-centered motive (inclusive of those extensions of ourselves - our families, countries, organizations, etc.) generate a bank account of sorts, which we will have pay back (good or bad), either in this lifetime or the next.
Now if we were to act in a God-centered way: Acting to please God rather than for my own behalf, then we are released from the results of our activities. Working for God's behalf will not create effects that will have to be paid off. Serving God produces spiritual results, and over time, will also mitigate other physical effects built up over our lifetimes.
This works in much the same way that a king's son is exempt of taxes. The household of the king is exempt because the king is the ruler of the land. In the same way, God's loving servants are exempt because the Supreme Being is the Ruler and Creator of the physical world.
Working to please the Supreme Being has many other effects. Working to please God gives us the greatest level of fulfillment, simply because we are innately each loving servants. This is the same reason people feel a little more fulfilled when they work on behalf of a loved one or family members: We are all servants.
Working for the Supreme Being results in the greatest fulfillment to our spiritual self.
Working to please the Supreme Being also helps others. Why? Because the Supreme Being loves each of us, and He is also pleased when we love and help His other children.
(For a translation of Jesus' statements from the Gospel of Matthew without institutional sectarian influence, see the Devotional Translation - translated from the original Greek texts.)