I have a friend in Orange County, California, who owned a very successful cabinet shop. He and his wife started with nothing and slowly built it up into a multi-million dollar business employing 15 cabinetmakers. One day he was working at the desk in his house, figuring up and writing the check for his quarterly estimated income tax. His wife happened to see the amount of the check and was floored at the size of it. “That’s terrible that we have to pay so much in taxes!” she exclaimed to him. Frank calmly replied: “Honey, there have been times when we didn’t owe any taxes. I would rather pay taxes than owe none!”
Nobody likes to pay taxes. This duty is unpopular and for many people April 15 is the most dreaded day of the year. Sometimes there is evidence of corruption in the collection and use of tax money. It seems the amount and types of taxes are endless, and we think there are better things we could do with our money. But for the Christian, it is our duty to pay our fair share.
Where does your tax money go, anyway?
When Americans pay their taxes, some of it goes to salaries of local, state and federal government workers. It supports community protection like police and firefighters. A large portion goes to provide for the common defense, like our armed forces, military, ships, tanks, planes and guns used to keep us safe and defend our freedom. Some tax money goes to invest in technology and education, as well as to provide goods and services for the American people. It also pays for major health programs, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as prisons to keep criminals out of the community, which make our streets safer. Tax dollars insure the roads you travel on are safe and well maintained, as well as bridges, railways and interstate highways. Taxes fund public libraries, parks and recreation facilities. Generally speaking, taxes enable the smooth and beneficial running of society. Taxes pay the cost of maintaining our freedom.
Who Pays the Most in Taxes?
You may think you have it bad on tax day. However, the top 1% of Americans pay 43.6% of all Federal income tax in the United States. Of course, to pay that much in taxes you must earn more than $2 million per year. Just about 115,000 households who earn more than $9 million per year pay 20% of the annual tax burden. The bottom 50% of American taxpayers pay a total of 3% of the total income tax. So, maybe you should breathe a sigh of relief.
Did Jesus Teach that we should Pay Taxes?
Even in Bible times, people hated to pay taxes. The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus in His words when they asked, “Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” (Matthew 22:17). They wanted to know if paying a tax to Caesar was in accordance with the Jewish Law, the Torah. The “poll-tax” was a tax imposed by the Roman government on every Jew.
If Jesus said they should pay, His enemies could charge Him with disloyalty to Israel. If He said no, they could denounce Him to the Romans as a rebel. Jesus recognized their trap and said, “Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” After bringing a Roman coin, Jesus asked, “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” (verses 19-21).
What did Jesus mean by His statement? He recognized the difference between political and spiritual responsibilities. Caesar for them, government for us, should be given taxes and rightful political obedience. However, God also should be given worship, obedience, service, tithes, and the dedication of one’s whole life.
Remember: The Roman government, which Jesus said to obey, was not a righteous government. It was the government that sanctioned the crucifixion of the only perfect man this world has seen. However, Jesus paid taxes and commanded His followers to do likewise, because government is God’s present system of establishing order and equity for humanity.
Does God expect us to pay taxes?
Though surprising to some, the Bible commands Christians to pay taxes. Paul wrote, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1). He goes on to remind his readers that a ruler is “a minister of God to you for good,” because he, as an avenger, “brings wrath on the one who practices evil” (verse 4). Among other things, we should all be thankful for prisons and police.
Paul wrote further: “For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:6-7).
On top of God’s clear directives, the only time Christians have the right to disobey government is when it forbids them from doing something the Bible commands, like teaching in Jesus’ name (Acts 5:27-29).
In a letter dated May 10, 1789, President George Washington wrote the United Baptist Churches of Virginia: “that every man, conducting himself as a good citizen, and being accountable to God alone for his religious opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping the Deity according to the dictates of his own conscience.”
According to Bible teaching, God planned for taxes to be used for the benefit of society. And even though we dread the day they are due, we should be thankful for all the benefits of a government that provides protection, care and freedom to serve God according to the dictates of our conscience.