Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not offend them, 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 17:27 NIV)
It’s not that Jesus didn’t have the money to pay the tax.
Earlier, Jesus had instructed his disciples on the matter of faith. Peter had already witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain, and heard the voice from the heavens establishing “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” So Peter knew (in his head, at least) who Jesus was, and Jesus was in the process of molding Peter into being a man of faith. It would have been easy for Jesus to give Peter permission to get the four-drachma out of the purse to pay their temple tax. But there was a lesson in this for Peter, and for us.
Imagine the way Peter looked at Jesus when Jesus told him to go catch a fish to find the coin to pay the tax. He must have done a double take—“Say what now!?” Peter hung out with Jesus enough to know that there was nothing conventional about this dude, but it must have seemed more than odd, this request. To meet this need, Peter had to be willing to believe that Jesus knew what he was talking about, be willing to do the work of going to catch that fish, and be willing to trust that the coin would be in the mouth of the very first fish that he caught.
It’s been my experience in life that God answers our prayers, but it requires work on our part. Quite often when we pray for something, we already have an idea in our minds of how we want this to go, and we expect that the answer to our prayer would be God conforming to our plans. But He often points us in a direction that, to us, seems like it has nothing to do with what we asked for. Remember: God’s will for us is so much better than our will for ourselves. He is a God of infinite wisdom, and things that do not make sense to us make perfect sense to Him. We must become willing to walk through the valleys, to do the work and to trust Him. We must be willing to believe that if we are being obedient, whatever God puts us through will always bring us closer to Him and closer to the fulfillment of the dreams He placed in our hearts.