Paying taxes is not fun. It isn't enjoyable for us today, and the ancient Jews didn't like it much either. Tax collectors were hated in Bible times (Matthew 11:19; 21:31–32; Luke 3:12–13), even more than the IRS is disliked today. We don't like to give our hard-earned money away, especially when we can see that it is being used by the government for things that are frivolous, useless or downright evil. Sometimes, moral arguments about better uses for our money, or not wanting to contribute to immoral practices, are used by conscientious people as a reason not to pay taxes. Can a Christian think this way? Or do we have to pay our taxes, no matter what?
A great story in the New Testament perfectly illustrates this conundrum and gives us a clear answer about what to do. In an effort to trap Jesus into saying or doing something unlawful, the Pharisees asked him: "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" They must have thought that on the one hand, Jesus could surely not condone paying taxes to a government like Rome, which was wicked in many ways. At the same time, could He condone breaking a law? But Jesus saw through their motives and gave them a brilliant answer: "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:17–21). Not only did He deftly avoid being trapped by their false dichotomy, Jesus taught a valuable lesson. Money is earthly, temporary, and not valuable in comparison to the kingdom of God.
Later, the Apostle Paul expanded this lesson when he said: "For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed" (Romans 13:6-7). The Roman government was wicked, and during Paul's life, it was ruled by Nero, who was one of the worst Emperors Rome ever saw. But the whole system depended on taxes, and it supported the Jews as well as the Romans. They owed taxes to their government, just as we do. And we are to be obedient to the government (Romans 13:1–7).
It is okay to take legal, honest roads to deduct taxes and reduce tax pressure, but we should keep in mind that the government, and the IRS, are an authority over us, and that every authority is set up by God for our good (Romans 13:4) and that those who rebel against authority are rebelling against God (Romans 13:2).
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