​Jesus’s Practice of Deference

It can be said that practicing deference has some similarities to practicing love. Love puts the needs and desires of others before our own, and so practicing deference puts the needs and desires of others before our own.

Matthew 17:24-27

…”of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? Of their own children, or of strangers?” Peter saith unto him, “of strangers.” Jesus saith unto him, “Then the children are free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money; that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

As Jesus and the disciples were coming into Capernaum, Peter was confronted by the tax collector about paying the tax. Capernaum was the town that Peter had lived in. Jesus told Peter that as local residents, they didn’t have to pay this tax, as it was customary to only charge it to foreigners.

The decision that Jesus and Peter faced was whether to practice deference and just pay the tax, or not pay it and cause a controversy in town. There is a trap here that in making the wrong decision would have taken the focus off of the lessons Jesus needed to teach in chapter 18. There would be much talking about whether he should pay the tax, which by rights he didn’t have to do, or he could teach his disciples about humility and forgiving one another. How often do we miss what God is doing because we are too worried about out “rights”?

Jesus decided to just pay it and get about his Father’s business.

It is very interesting how the tax was paid though, because it would appear that Jesus didn’t have the money. He sends Peter fishing! Telling him that the tax money would be in the mouth of the first fish he caught!

How strange this must have seemed to Peter. But there is an important lesson here that we all need to learn. When we are obedient and pursue God with our whole heart, meaning earnestly seeking to think like him, speak like him and act as he would, God rewards us in unimaginable ways.

Hebrews 11:6

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

This verse makes it clear that God himself will reward those who seek to grow in the character traits of Jesus.

Simply put, deference means to take care of the other guy first. That’s what Jesus would do, and God will make the arrangements to take care of you.

Let’s work to practice this most of all in our own homes!

Here are five “ I will” principles to practice in order to incorporate the character trait of deference into your life (write these on a poster, board of overhead transparency).

  1. I will notice those around me.
  2. I will respect the feelings of others.
  3. I will not use offensive language.
  4. I will not play loud music in public.
  5. I will be careful how I dress.

Closing #1: Let’s dialog about it with one another.

  • Shift into small discussion groups of 3-4.
  • Encourage groups to list the hindrances in their own lives to practice deference in their families and with acquaintances.
  • Ask groups to share their feelings with the whole group.

Closing #2: Let’ close in silent prayer, ask God:

  • To forgive you for things in your life that cause you to focus on yourself instead of the needs that are around you.
  • To show you how to practice deference in your life.
  • To make you aware of opportunities to grow in this character trait.


This material is published by the Faith Committee of the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Reproduction and Adaptation is encouraged.


Contributed by Craig E. Beckley
Bible Teacher, Moores Hill, Indiana

August 28, 2003



In the letters of Paul, he talks much about being careful not to offend other people unnecessarily. We will look at some of his instructions and his own example. Read I Corinthians 10:14-33.

This chapter is dealing with the problem of idolatry, especially with the pagan practice of sacrificing meet to idols preparatory to selling it in the meat market. We may not understand what was involved, but we know it caused a problem for the Christians. Some Christians would buy meat without investigating the details of its preparation. Other Christians would not buy meat unless they were able to verify—in some way—that the meat had not been sacrificed to idols. This second group of Christians would get in awkward situations when eating in someone else’s home. Should they eat the meat served by the host? Should they ask the host if the meat had been sacrificed to idols? What if the host did not know? What if the host informed the Christian that the meat had been sacrificed to idols?

In verse 27, Paul say, “If one of the unbelievers invites you, and you wish to go, eat anything that is set before you, without asking questions for conscience’ sake.” So, it was not necessary to investigate this. On the other hand, Paul says in verse 28 and 29:

But if anyone should say to you, “This is meat sacrificed to idols,” do not eat it, for the Sake of the one who informed you, and for conscience’ sake; I mean not your own Conscience, but the other man’s; for why is my freedom judged by another’s Conscience?

In this instruction, Paul was saying that we should be careful of the other person’s conscience. Otherwise, we would be encouraging the unbeliever in his idolatry by our willingness to share in this practice.

In chapter 8, the same question of eating meat sacrificed to idols is discussed with reference to weak Christians. These Christians were still tempted to worship idols, so they avoided anything associated with idols, even meat. In verse 13, Paul says, “Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble [sin], I will never eat meat again, that I might not cause my brother to stumble [sin].”


We do not have the same practices of idolatry as existed in Corinth, but we still have many issues which can potentially offend others. The following “I will” statements will help avoid offending others—and worse—causing others to sin.

I will notice those around me.
I will respect the feelings of others.
I will not use offensive language.
I will not play loud music.
I will be careful how I dress.


Memorize I Corinthians 10:31. “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Think about how everything we do should glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Even our eating and drinking—common, everyday activities—should glorify God. Our dress is especially important in the American culture where immodesty rules in many places. If we glorify God in our day-to-day activities, there is only one way we may offend someone: Proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ and His salvation is an offense to those who will not repent. But do not be afraid of this offense. Paul is, again, our teacher and example: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16




This material is published by the Faith Committee of the Character Council of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Reproduction and Adaptation is encouraged.


Contributed by Ron Wallie
Husband and Father of Nine, Southington, OH

August 30, 2003