There is a raging debate of late over whether or not it is right to pay taxes or submit to political powers that do not support Christian ideologies. The Bible does fairly well to address this topic directly.
At the time Christ was on earth, Rome ruled the known world from England to India, and the nation of Israel was captive to Rome. To financially support the standing army necessary to control the Jews, taxes were 70 to 80% of the annual income of the average Jewish household. The Jews and Romans definitely did not share the same beliefs or virtues.
The Jews expected their Messiah to be a powerful king who would militarily throw off the oppressive rule of Rome and free the nation of Israel. But, when asked whether or not his followers should submit to Roman authority and pay taxes to this unjust government, Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”
Why does Jesus say this? Christians are a people not of this world. We are people of the kingdom of God. God’s call is a call for the submission of our hearts to Him, and the denial of the importance of the things of this world. Christ has tasked us, as His followers, to fight a spiritual battle, through discipleship. Our faith is not a call to rebel and fight, but a call to unite and spread His Word. Very little is necessary for us to achieve God’s purpose for our lives (relationship with Him and spreading of His Word). God is a God of justice and saving grace, and he is our deliverer. He is working on a grand plan, all of which is laid out in detail from the beginning to the end in the Bible. We can see His plan coming to fruition as prophecy is continuously fulfilled. When we are obedient and put our dependence on God, in His time, according to His purpose, He always delivers. Christ did not lead a Jewish rebellion against Rome, rather, He submitted to their authority and allowed them to crucify Him. After the crucifixion of Christ, the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jews were driven out from Israel across the world. But, because of his crucifixion, the sins of God’s elect became atoned. And because of the wonder of the resurrection, and the dedication (to death) of Christ’s followers, the Christian faith exploded. Today, the Roman Empire is long gone, but the Kingdom of Christ spans the globe. Christ’s teaching is incredibly counter-intuitive to our human instincts, but is proven righteous, and God has a plan for our redemption.
Here is what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13:
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 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.
The power ordained to all rulers of the world is by God, and is vital for His purpose in His story (the redemption of man from sin and the gathering of His children back to Him, as laid out from Genesis to Revelation). We must have Faith in God’s plan.
If you enjoyed this post you might also appreciate my article To Christian Exiles in Babylon on the application of Jeremiah’s ‘Letter to the Exiles’ to Christian living and approaching culture today.
Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, and theology student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY.