To Pay Or Not To Pay – Jay Rivenbark


I recently began the process of meeting with my CPA to calculate exactly what my tax liability would be for this past year. Although spring is a much anticipated time of the year, filing our taxes is not.  For many of us it is a dreaded obligation. It has often been said that the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes! There is however a spiritual aspect of paying taxes that I would like to share that may in some way cause us to look at this issue from a different perspective. In Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus himself payed the temple tax although he indicated that he was actually exempt from the obligation. His reasoning was simple. He would pay the tax so as not to offend anyone. He was willing to pay a tax for which he did not have a legal obligation in order to set a good example.

On another occasion recorded in Matthew 22:15-22, the Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus by asking him his opinion as to whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar (which was a corrupt and ungodly government). After examining a coin containing Caesar’s image Jesus replied, give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (the tax) and to God what is God’s. Notice he acknowledged our responsibility to both.

The apostle Paul would write in Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority (government) except that which God has established.” Paul clarified that to fail to follow established governmental guidelines and authority was equal to rebelling against the very authority established by God. He went on to emphasize the issue in verses 5-7 of chapter 13. “Therefore it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him; if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (NIV)

Many times we take offense and objection to what we perceive as misuse, misappropriation and even corruption within our government and its tax system. Though that is often the case, it does not excuse us from submitting to the government’s requirements as it relates to paying taxes.

As Christian citizens, we have the right to work toward and even vote for changes that we feel are unfair and unjust. We also have the right to take advantage of legal deductions in order to pay only the tax that is actually owed. In the end we need to follow the clearly defined Biblical principles of scripture and pay our taxes in a timely manner. This year, pause to think about the many practical benefits derived from paying taxes (roads, police, fire and military protection, schools, etc.) and choose to give thanks for the many blessings we enjoy. Luke 12:48 reminds us that to whom much is given much is required. This includes our taxes as well!

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