Paying Caesar Whatâ™s Due Caesarâ”It Isnâ™t About Taxes

caesarLet’s talk about an unpopular topic: taxes. I have no statistics to back this up, but I think many, maybe most, Christians fall somewhere in the anti-tax camp. Maybe it’s just human nature that we all feel as if we’re paying too much for taxes. Or maybe it’s the conflict we feel when we see our tax money being used to pay for what we consider to be unholy activities.

In some places I’ve even seen the question brought up of should we even be participating in what government is doing?â

If we look to the Bible to support anti-tax positions, we won’t find much. In perhaps the most concise pronouncement on the subject, Jesus tells us this:

So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.ââ”Matthew 22:21 (NIV)

There’s not much reading between the lines❠in this verse. The topic was taxes, and Jesus was telling us to pay them. Even more, Caesar was representative of the hated, conquering Romans; it was anathema to a Jew in the first century to support taxes paid to the Romans, unless of course you were a tax collector. So not only is Jesus telling us to pay our taxes, but also that we should pay them even if the government we’re paying them to isn’t considered legitimate.

Paying taxes is about obeying authority

Paying any given tax, or any tax at all, isn’t really about paying taxes. It’s about obeying authority. We don’t have to like a tax, but we are commanded to obey authority, even authorities we disagree with.

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.ââ”Romans 13:1 (NIV)

Obeying authority is honoring God. He establishes authority as a way to prevent us from living in chaos, which is a good bit worse than the worst governmental system we can ever concoct.

And there’s one other thing. All authority is a model forâ”and ultimately points towardâ”God Himself. When we disobey authority, we’re disobeying God. If that authority is corrupt, evil, or heading in the wrong direction, God will deal with it in His own time. By honoring that authority, we’re not only keeping ourselves in good standing with God, but we’re also demonstrating faith that He will provide for us no matter the intent of the authority.

â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.ââ”Romans 13:6-7 (NIV)

The democratic conflict and the Bible

For the most part, our opposition to paying taxes, or to a given level of taxes, is found not in faith, but in secularism. We live in a democratic society where we have rights as citizens, and where everyone has an opinion. We can challenge paying a tax based on our rights as free citizens, but we shouldn’t cite the Bible as justification for the challenge.

Does that mean that challenging a tax is unbiblical? Maybe so, maybe not. But our political system is democratic (actually it’s a representative democracy) which means we can challenge a tax or level of taxation and still be operating within the commands God gives us in the Bible. It’s actually a unique position in history and even today in much of the world. And it’s also confusing.

The point is, we should never take an anti-tax stand based on the notion that God doesn’t want us to pay this or that tax❠or that a tax might be anti-Godâ. No, God wants us to obey the authorities, and that means we need to pay our taxes.

This is an uncomfortable subject for many, and that includes me. I’m solidly in the taxes-are-too-high camp, and I really wish God had some condemnation for taxes, but He doesn’t. Given that, we need to bend our own desires and actions to the Word of God, and not try to make Scripture work for our own personal benefit.

What do you think should be the Christian’s attitude toward taxes? Can you find anywhere in the Bible where God condones not paying taxes?

photo by 58308412@N00