Daily Devotion August 24, 2023

“…go down to the shore and throw in a line and open the mouth of the first fish you catch. You will find a coin to cover the taxes for both of us; take it and pay them”  (Matthew 17:27, TLB).

     Some of the best fishing stories involve the one that didn’t get away. Such is the case for a high school freshman from Minnesota. Connor Halsa reeled in an unusual catch while fishing with his family in Iowa. Connor set his hook into a wallet filled with $2000 in cash at Lake of the Woods.

     The wallet belonged to an Iowan farmer named Jim Denney. Denney lost his billfold a year earlier in the same body of water. The young man’s father urged his son to return the money to its rightful owner. Connor obliged. And though Connor walked away from the opportunity with no cash in hand, his heart was enriched exponentially that day.

     Matthew’s gospel also tells a fishing story that is equally intriguing. Peter was approached by a group of tax collectors demanding that Jesus pay a tax for the upkeep of the Jewish Temple. Jesus subsequently instructed Peter to go fishing. Like young Connor, Peter pulled in a wad of cash (or in this case a coin worth two day’s wages).

     The meaning of the story is found in an earlier conversation between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asked Peter whether a king assesses taxes on his citizens or against foreign nationals. Peter correctly replied that the king would exact taxes from foreigners before his own people. Jesus rhetorically replied, “So, the people are free!”

     In a spiritual sense, so too is Connor. Connor is free of greed. Free of avarice. Free of the toxicity of self-interest. To his credit, Connor revealed an uncommonly observed sense of fairness when he told WDAY-TV in an interview, “We didn’t work hard for the money, he did, so it was his money.”

     And just as Peter discovered gain in the mouth of a fish, so too did Connor. The generosity that Connor displayed following his catch at Lake of the Woods has endeared him to everyone who has heard his story, including God. Even more, the lessons of selflessness and altruism that Connor’s father instilled in his son bodes well for Connor’s future.

     Sadly, we live in an age wherein many are asking, “What’s in it for me?”  Thank God for people like Connor and his father who are angling at a different question. “What, O God, can I do to honor you?”

     So, beware of being baited by the allure of greed. Your freedom to live in service of Christ depends upon which one of these questions you cast, and which it is you release.