Render Unto Caesar

Today is April 15th. It’s tax time in the United States. It’s the deadline for filing your state and federal income taxes.

But it’s also a time when you hear resurrected phony arguments to relieve us from the responsibility of paying income taxes. In fact, “frivolous tax arguments” are so common that the IRS actually has an online resource listing the most common arguments and a legal refutation of each one. It consists of 56 pages! Here are just a few.

“Filing of a tax return is voluntary,”

“Taxpayers can reduce their federal income tax liability by filing a’ zero return’.”

“Federal reserve notes are not income.”

“Taxpayer is not a ‘person’ as defined by the Internal Revenue Code, thus is not subject to the federal income tax laws.”

“The Internal Revenue service is not an agency of the United States.”

“Federal income taxes constitute a ‘taking’ of property without due process of law, thus violating the Fifth Amendment.”

Really? People actually make these arguments and many more to evade paying taxes. But here’s my favorite.

“Taxpayers can refuse to pay income taxes on religious or moral grounds by invoking the First Amendment.”

It is shameful and absurd that those claiming to be Christians would actually make such frivolous arguments, especially in light of Jesus famous statement in Matthew 22:21.

“Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s…”

The verse needs a bit of context.

The Pharisees hated Rome. The despised the Roman rulers and their oppression. And they resented paying taxes. The Emperors were immoral, depraved tyrants. The Roman Emperor, Tiberius, who was in power during Jesus’ life was notorious for his sexual perversity. Political opponents were executed. Governors were corrupt. Pagan gods were worshiped. And the Jewish tax dollars funded it!

The Herodians, however, accepted, supported and even advocated paying taxes because they belonged to the political party of Herod, the King of Galilee. Ironically, these two opposing groups joined forces trying to entrap Jesus by asking a trick question:

“Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

If Jesus said, “No” he could be charged with treason against Rome. However, if he said, “Yes,” the Jews would accuse him of blasphemy against the nation of Israel.

Jesus was in a “catch 22” situation. Or was He?

Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and knew their evil intentions. He cleverly requested to see a coin. “Whose image and inscription is this?” He asked.

“Caesar’s.” They said.

At this Jesus left them speechless when he responded, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Christians live in two worlds. The spiritual world of God’s Kingdom. And the physical world of our respective government. We are responsible and accountable to both.

As Kingdom citizens we are called to live differently than those driven by the carnality of worldly pursuits and sensual pleasures. “Be holy for I am holy” implores our father. We have specific responsibilities in the spiritual realm that regulate our time, talent and treasure.

However, we still live in the world. We have an earthly citizenship. But our secular responsibilities are guided by our spiritual commitments. We are to respect those in positions of governmental authority. Obey their laws. Pray for them. And, yes pay our taxes! In fact, Christians, as “children of light” have a higher calling to be honest, ethical, and honorable.

“Frivolous tax arguments” designed to evade our duty to “Uncle Sam” will land us in trouble with the law. But even worse, we will be in trouble with the Lord!

Pay your taxes!

Ken Weliever, The Preacherman

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