Paying Unfair Taxes

Question:

“I can’t understand how we are supposed to pay taxes that are too high and unfair. Should Christians speak up about taxes and other government intrusions into our lives?”

Answer:

This is the same question asked of Jesus, although I believe your question has a better motivation behind it. Jesus’ enemies tried to entangle Him in a question about paying taxes to Rome. Rome’s taxation was constant and completely unfair. A local tax collector could keep all he wanted as long as he paid Rome its share. So the taxman got rich and everyone knew it was from the excess they kept for themselves, money they didn’t have to collect. This system encouraged corruption and led to tax collectors being considered the worst sort of sinner. They were not allowed into synagogues, were social outcasts and despised by all members of society.

When Jesus’ enemies attempted to trap Him, they were seeking to put Him between the Romans and the popular feelings of the community…

Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?”

But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away. (Matthew 22:15 – 22, New American Standard Bible)

Jesus drew a clear line between the worldly and the spiritual. The things of the world do not accomplish God’s will. But, while we live in this world we must be responsible to the community in which we live. That includes giving back to Caesar (the government) that which is required.

Paul expands this further in Romans 13…

“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.” (verses 6, 7)

Paul commands this when Roman oppression and taxation were notoriously unfair and arbitrary. Yet Christians were to pay their taxes, even to unfair and arbitrary rulers. So, today, we pay our taxes, even if intrusive and too high.

One great thing about being a Christian in our country is that we do have the right to speak out. While we must obey the tax laws, we can also write, speak and lecture about our thoughts and feelings about taxes. This is a political right we enjoy. We have, like any United States citizen, the right to exercise our political rights. But in the meantime, we must, as citizens of a spiritual kingdom, pay our taxes honestly and fully, as the law requires.

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