Yesterday was the day that many Americans dread- the day in which we pay our income taxes for the year. Even the very wealthy like Mitt Romney are reluctant to pay their taxes, and it has been in the news that the presidential-hopeful has filed for an extension. Some Christians in the past have felt that paying taxes is not what Christians should do. What does the Bible say about taxes?
A group of religious leaders came to Jesus once and asked the same question. They said in Matthew 22:17 “Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?” This was a trick question for Jesus. He might have said “Yes, we should,” and they would have accused him of saying that Caesar is more important than God. He might have said, “No, we shouldn’t” at which time the Pharisees could have had Jesus arrested by the Romans for saying that they shouldn’t pay taxes.
Caesar, the ruler of the Roman Empire, was not someone who was a believer in the true God of Israel, and so any money going to him would support an unbeliever. More than that, the money that the Roman Empire took in financed some very ungodly practices, such as building idols, paying vestal virgins, throwing lavish wicked parties, and even in some cases slaughtering Jews. There was no pretense that the money would be used for good. Some have used the argument that the American government uses their money for evil, and so should not be paid. Yet what did Jesus say? He said “Shew me the tribute money. Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
To Jesus, the government and the things of God were two separate things. The government is not for the propagation of a particular religion, but as 1 Timothy 2:2 says, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” The church and the things of God are for different things, namely the glorification of God and the promotion of the truth. Therefore, said Jesus, pay the government so they can foster a peaceful environment, and give to the church so they can be free to worship God.
Paying taxes, in summary, is to ensure that we are able to enjoy the freedoms and liberty the government helps provide for us. Romans 13:6 has the last word: “For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.”