Is it just me, or does it seem like Christians grumble a lot about paying taxes?
With recent news accounts about government waste, extravagant trips and questionable expenditures of our tax money, it does make paying taxes a bit distasteful at times.
But what would Jesus do? Did Jesus pay taxes?
The answer to the question is found in Matthew, the tax collector’s, gospel account.
“After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?”
“Yes, he does,” he replied.
“When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes — from their own sons or from others?”
“From others,” Peter answered.
“Then the sons are exempt,” 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.”
Jesus paid taxes. Not because HE had to, but to serve as a good example. The Temple belonged to His Father. Yet, he had Peter paid the tax for both of them.
On another occasion when the Jews tried to trap Jesus by asking, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?”
The Jews hated the Roman rule. The emperors were immoral and corrupt. They were pagans. And they made life difficult for God’s people. So, Jesus gave them a pass. Right? Wrong!
He said show me a coin. Then asked whose inscription was on it. When they answered, “Caesar’s.” He said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:15-22).
But what were Christians told to do after the church was established? Revolt? Rebel? Refuse to pay taxes to an ungodly government?
No! Paul said, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God..For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. (Rom. 13:1,6-8)
From these texts we learn at least five things.
1. God’s people have obligations to the Kingdom of God, as well as the kingdoms of this world.
2. Our secular responsibilities are guided by our spiritual commitments.
3. We are to respect those positions of governmental authority.
4. Jesus’ followers paid their taxes.
5. Christians have a higher calling to be honest, ethical, and honorable.
So, on this tax day, let us as “children of light” pay what is rightfully due Uncle Sam. Tax evasion is a violation of Biblical principles. (Notice, I didn’t say tax avoidance, which is using the legal IRS exemptions to reduce our tax burden.) But to purposely withhold income. To declare expenses that are bogus. Or to refuse to even file is to dishonor our King. King Jesus.
Jesus paid taxes. So should I.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman