By Kim Longden
When my oldest son was little, we read from the Beginner’s Bible each night at bedtime. One night we opened up to a story entitled “Money in a Fish” based on Matthew 17:24-27. On the last page of this obscure account was a picture of the smiling disciple Peter holding a fish with a coin in its mouth—just enough money to pay the temple tax. I remember shaking my head and thinking the Beginner’s Bible had jumped the shark making up this weird story that I had never heard before.
So, I looked up the reference in the Bible, and to my surprise, there it was!
Recently, the “Money in a Fish” section of Matthew came up in family devotions. I dug out the Beginner’s Bible and told the kids about the first time I read this story to little Micah wondering whether it was actually in the Bible. I mused inwardly over this ongoing phenomenon—how oftentimes I am learning right along with the kids while teaching them. Then I realized there was a lively theoretical discussion going on around me: How did the money get into the fish?
I had never put that much thought into HOW the money got in the fish; I just thought it was bizarre that it was there. I listened to the kids’ creative speculations: “A sightseer was out walking by the lake one evening,” one of the kids was saying, interrupted by another, “…he was tossing coins into the lake making wishes…” Another chimed in, “The fish thought the coins were bread so it gobbled them up, like those fish in ponds that will eat anything!”
I liked this scenario as it unfolded. It all seemed so casual and commonplace; except that Peter would then catch this very fish with just what he needed, showing that it didn’t all just happen randomly.
The money in a fish prompted a discussion on the ways God has provided for our family needs, big and small. In some recollections, we could trace along the threads of what we knew far enough back to see that God had set the wheels in motion to provide for us long before we even had the need.
As we reminisced, I remembered how I had worried over these situations, wondering how everything would work out. It was remarkable to see that, although there were so many unknowns during those times, nothing was unknown to God. In fact, God had been working on our behalf long before I knew there would be anything to worry about!
No eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
Isaiah 64:4 (ESV)
It is so reassuring to know that the same Jesus who is the commander of the winds and waves also rules over random chance for the benefit of His redeemed! It is truly amazing when the Spirit gives us a small glimpse of the beautiful tapestry God is weaving with what feel like haphazard threads in the situations of our lives and the lives of others.
God uses many hands, many means, and many channels to provide for us. Ultimately, whatever we receive by divine command or arrangement is all received from our Father’s hand—like Peter’s just-enough-money in a fish. Every good and perfect gift is from above! Jesus uses both the magnificent and the ordinary to grow our faith and trust in Him.
Maybe Jesus made money miraculously appear in the fish’s mouth; or maybe God worked through a haphazard chain of seemingly unrelated events, eventually leading to the fulfillment of Peter’s need. Either way, that coin in the fish’s mouth reminds me that we can trust Jesus in everything, even in seemingly random events in our seemingly random experience. Our Creative Provider is working on our behalf!