Posts Tagged ‘Obligation’


Fish Coin by Ross Cochrane using and

Fish Coin by Ross Cochrane using and

Because of His nomadic lifestyle, the request is made after He arrives at Capernaum. Strange that He should be asked to give. But then every male over twenty is expected to contribute about two days pay per year (half a shekel, a Greek slater, a Roman denarius). Only once, in the days of Nehemiah the Builder, when the people were poor, has it been one third of a shekel (Nehemiah 10:32).

Perhaps it is because Matthew’s background was as a tax collector that this story stays in his mind. By the time he writes his gospel the emperor Vespasian had destroyed the Temple (AD 70) and defiled this sacred offering by using it to rebuild the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.

But on this day you can still hear the religious leaders, Pharisees and Sadducees, arguing in the streets as to whether the payment of this silver coin was voluntary or compulsory. It didn’t matter much because as the announcement is made in all the towns of Israel; tax collectors asking for the payment, it is with a sense of nationalistic duty that each man gives to support the running of the Sanctuary.

Like a subscription or a membership fee that enables them to appropriate the use of the Great Temple, it pays for animals, incense, wine, flour and oil and priests. It pays for the sacrifices made each night and morning and is given freely, salted with that sense of historical obligation. Exodus 30:13-20 (NLT) says it is to be given in silver “… as a sacred offering to the Lord. … to purify your lives, making you right with Him, … ransom money … for the care of the Tabernacle.” 

It is not unusual that “the collectors of the Temple tax” make enquiries as to Jesus paying. That is their responsibility after all (Matthew 17:24). It brings into the temple treasury a lot of money. But why are they reluctant to go directly to Jesus? Instead they come to Peter and ask him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” Are they trying to accuse Jesus of being a Temple-tax-evader?

In an act of faith the tax was paid for the forgiveness of sins, so that they could enter the Temple forgiven and accepted by God; a new, fresh start.

Why would Jesus need to pay? Jesus had no sin for which He needed forgiveness. The Temple tax payment is a picture of what He would do for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”   

As the treasurer of the group (John 13:29), it is expected that Judas be responsible for paying the tax for all of them. This year Jesus chooses a different approach.

Soon Judas would throw 30 pieces of silver down in the Temple (Matthew 27:5) trying to retract his treachery, enough to pay for a lifetime of Temple Taxes, but he would hang himself before being purified by the sacrifice of Jesus.

This time the tax is given miraculously as an act of grace, a picture of Forgiveness. Jesus is the price; not earned or worked for and totally undeserved. He gives voluntarily in every way to pay for our sins. Jesus will pay the full price and He is the once and for all sacrifice. He will contribute His life for them. And for you. Grace unearned. 

Pastor Ross

My wife Julie


She is selfless and giving. Yesterday, knowing that my son and his family are all sick, she cooked them a casserole, travelled to see them in another part of Sydney, and encouraged them to go to the park with her. They had a great time basking in the sun and enjoying each others company. Ever since I have known her my wife Julie has been generous with the people around her, not only her family. She acts without expecting anything in return. She is practical and sensitive to the needs of others.

She loves the unlovely and those who don’t particularly deserve it, like me. She is very much a treasure in my life, a gift from God. She lives out the Golden Rule not so much by intention but as a natural outworking of her relationship with God. It’s a part of her life. She seems to see opportunities to “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12 NLT). This rule of life, verbalised by Jesus so long ago, has been activated in Julie’s life in the most beautiful of ways.

It fascinates me that versions of the “GOLDEN RULE” existed even before Christ? Commentaries say that it is found in the Rabbinic writings, Hinduism and Buddhism, even Confucius had a version. The difference, according to John Macarthur and other scholars, is that all of them cast the rule as a NEGATIVE command. Rabbi Hillel’s version, for example, said “What is hateful to yourself do not (do) to someone else.” In other words I just have to make sure I don’t do negative things to others. But these negative versions exclude and EXCUSE me from doing anything positive.

Jesus puts this command in the POSITIVE, and says in Matthew 7:12 (NLT) “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you …” I am to be actively and INTENTIONALLY doing something positive and not simply AVOIDING doing what is wrong or hurtful to others. The Golden Rule turns these other versions around and confronts me with what I so often omit to do for others.

The Golden Rule doesn’t make me DEPENDENT on others. My wife, Julie, didn’t wait to send a meal to our sick family members. She wasn’t returning a favour. The Golden Rule doesn’t tie me to unrealistic EXPECTATIONS of obligation, but frees me to express love to others without the prospect of anything in return. Jesus said “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35 NLT)

Given that our selfishness will always tend to manipulate others, this law suspends selfishness and gives us a compass and invitation for living generously. It has the capacity to change the heart of dictators who instigate civil unrest by their greed by breaking the chains of injustice, deceit and manipulation. It heals marriages and disharmony in families. Most of all it changes ME, my perspective about others and cuts across my selfishness. It reaches out to others, like Julie does, and seeks to make a difference. The Golden Rule and the treasure of my life.

Pastor Ross

Matthew 7:12 – YOU OWE ME! or STOP FOLLOWING ME!

Stop Following Me!

I was looking at Instagram photographs recently. On the most popular photographs, so many people made comments such as “I will like you 5 times if you like me”. It was as blatant as that (and as pathetic). They scream “Make me popular, too!” I will follow your blog so that you will follow mine! You may feel OBLIGATED because I have shown interest in your blog, but you have no way of knowing what my motivation might be. How many people want followers due to their low self-esteem or competitiveness. I recently saw a sign which said “Don’t follow me! I’m lost too!”

There’s a shop on the corner of OBLIGATION STREET and RECIPROCITY. It advertises free tickets, scratch-its, gifts, invitations, free samples, biros, key-rings, 2 for one. All designed to make me feel OBLIGATED to give or buy or comply or compromise in some way when I may not really be interested in doing so. Mafia-like, our society is built on such laws of OBLIGATION. A young man buys a girl dinner, an expensive gift and a concert ticket. Later, she is made to feel obligated to sleep with him in return. After all, he has been so nice. The LAW OF RECIPROCITY at it’s ugly best. Scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. You OWE me! “I owe, I owe… until beserk I go!”

We are all controlled by this rule in some way. It’s influence is all pervasive, an invisible net that is all-encompassing and we feel trapped. We do not always want to comply, but we are often caught up in it’s web, where we feel that defiance of it’s authority is useless. We succumb to it’s embrace in all kinds of situations. It is a law that governs our responses and we feel helpless to resist. We feel compelled to obey because it seems like we OWE it to others.

Jesus writes a great one sentence blog that calls me to BREAK FREE from the Law of Reciprocity and it’s manipulating grip (He is well worth following). He says in Matthew 7:12 (NLT) “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you …” The GOLDEN RULE vs RECIPROCITY. At first they look the same but they are not? Don’t be fooled!

The “GOLDEN RULE” by-passes obligation and self interest. It is NOT about treating others according to HOW THEY TREAT ME or how I EXPECT them to treat me, or to treat them so they will OWE ME something, but it is treating others how I would LIKE to be treated WHETHER THEY TREAT ME THAT WAY OR NOT! Unless you have a deathwish or want to do self harm this one sentence statement has world changing implications. The “GOLDEN RULE” cuts right across the LAW OF RECIPROCITY.

The “GOLDEN RULE” is NOT simply exchanging things with others for MUTUAL BENEFIT. It involves giving WITHOUT the expectation that I will receive anything back! It involves generosity without it merely being a tax break!

Neither is it about EARNING POINTS with God on earth so that He is obligated to get me into heaven. The Bible invites me to believe in what Christ has ALREADY DONE for me on the Cross when He died for my sins. Heaven is a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9) not something I can earn. The Golden Rule far surpasses the law of Reciprocity and what I think I OWE. It goes the extra mile. It shows UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.

It is NOT just loving those who are lovely, or for that matter getting revenge on those who treat me badly. It is about undeserved love. The “GOLDEN RULE” is NOT simply putting myself in someone elses shoes, thinking as someone else would think, but it is asking for God’s thoughts to pervade my thinking so that I see others the way He sees them.

The “GOLDEN RULE” is based on the “GREAT COMMANDMENT”. The invitation is to love God with all your heart, soul and mind and to love others unconditionally as Christ did. The GOLDEN RULE is genuine, not the FOOLS GOLD of RECIPROCATION that will inevitably leave you bankrupt.

The “GOLDEN RULE” cuts me off from my selfishness and manipulation, of expecting others to feather my nest, and invites me to give generously, love unconditionally, and allow Christ to change my motivations completely. Jesus Christ alone shows me what it looks like to live a life of unconditional love and not be bound by obligation. The invitation is to Exchange RECIPROCATION for UNCONDITIONAL LOVE by responding to Christ today. A sign I read recently said “STOP FOLLOWING ME! FOLLOW JESUS!”

Pastor Ross

PS If this blog has helped you in any way to apply the life-changing truths of the Bible, please feel free to pass it on to others or make a comment or follow me (Well, not me exactly, but … you know what I mean. No obligation).