It is tax time in my country. We have to pay our taxes by the middle of April of every year and it is a time when many people don’t look forward to. Most don’t want to know if they owe any taxes. However, if you are due a refund because you paid in too much money to the government then tax time can be a time to celebrate! I have always felt blessed that I have made enough money to pay taxes because for the first ten years or so of my adult life we didn’t have a large enough income to pay any taxes. I always feel that having a large enough income to owe taxes is a blessing. But what does the Bible say about paying taxes? After all we are not of this world but rather we are citizens of heaven, right? So do I owe my earthly government money? Jesus was asked about taxes too.
Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him, Mark 12: 13-16, (New International Version or NIV).
Jesus was an authority on the Jewish Law as He knew it and had studied it and mostly because He probably helped His Father God write it! He also could see that the motive for the question about taxes was to try to trap Him. I love the answer He gave because He took a coin and basically said; pay your taxes you hypocrites! Why do we follow the law of our countries? Why do we as Christians submit to paying taxes or not speed while driving or not cheat, swindle or murder others and so forth? Why?
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor, Romans 13:1-7, (NIV).
The Apostle Paul answered this question in a letter he wrote to the church in Rome. As you may recall Rome was the world leader of that time and I am sure there were those who felt that they didn’t need to follow Roman law or pay Roman taxes. Paul did not mess around in his reply to this attitude. He said very plainly that we as earthly citizens are to obey the law of our country and any other country that we may visit. Where did Paul get this idea? I could go through a lengthy lesson on how God established the first King for the Jewish people and then how God chose to dethrone that King in favor of another. However, there are other ways to learn that the Creator of this universe also is in charge of all authority and rule.
Fear the Lord and the king, my son, and do not join with rebellious officials, for those two will send sudden destruction on them, and who knows what calamities they can bring? Proverbs 24:21-22, (NIV).
“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power. By me kings reign and rulers issue decrees that are just; by me princes govern, and nobles—all who rule on earth. I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me, Proverbs 8: 12-17, (NIV).
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.” Daniel 2:20-23, (NIV).
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor, 1 Peter 2:11-17, (NIV).
Now that I have shown you just a few scriptures that discuss how we are to conduct ourselves as law-abiding citizens in this world I hope that you can do a deeper study on the matter if you have any lingering doubts on this subject. The bottom line is that we are to pay our taxes and obey the laws where we live. We do so because first and foremost we love and serve the greatest giver of law, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, the three-in-one. We are not to lie or cheat because our God does not lie or cheat. We are to get along with everyone and have peace in our hearts and in our attitudes with others.
I know there will be some who wonder if we are to obey the law when the law of our land is contradictory to our religious beliefs. I find this argument a little annoying because man’s law never supersedes God’s law. I have never seen a country that demanded a citizen break the moral laws of God, such as having sex with a child, for example, or that murdering each other is acceptable, or even that it is alright to do your own thing no matter what that thing is! Every country has moral laws but not every country is fair in their laws. For instance, if you live in a country where you can’t go to church does that mean you can’t be a Christian? It may be difficult to maintain your Christian beliefs but if you show love to everyone, live a lawful and peaceful life then haven’t you fulfilled the commands of God? Yes, you have.
Christian principles are to be lived out daily wherever you find yourself and in whatever country you reside. I know that sounds foreign to some but the truth is that Christianity does not thrive only in a democracy; it thrives wherever the people of God live out the principles and precepts of God. Paying taxes is one of the principles; giving honor where honor is due is one of those principles just as showing everyone love is a principle! I am thankful to God that I live in a democratic society and that I have enough income to pay taxes. But if I lived in a society that was not a democracy I would probably still have to pay my taxes and hopefully still be a Christian and I hope the same for you.