Bible Answers 04-15-11

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“Do I really have to pay taxes? I mean, does the Bible teach that I should give my money to the government?” — Katie

To grasp the biblical perspective, we need to understand that taxes were very much part of life in first-century Israel. At that time, Judea was subject to Rome — and the empire was committed to collecting tribute from its conquered subjects. In the provinces, local citizens were commissioned to do this job. The tax collector could “legally” overcharge and keep for himself the difference.  Thus, the Jewish tax collector was disdained as an enemy collaborator and social pariah (Mt. 9:9-13; Lk. 19:1-10).
Jesus did not refuse to pay taxes or advise a tax revolt.  He told Peter that the Temple tax should be paid so “that we do not give offense” (Mt. 17:24-27).  He also declared that the emperor could “rightfully” command tribute from his subjects (Mt. 22:15-22).  His point: “Pay your taxes but remember who is God!”
Paul recognized the legitimate function of government. Taxes are paid, he wrote, to support the government as a matter of conscience and to help restrain evil (Rom. 13:1-7).  
We conclude that as good citizens, we should pay our share of the cost of governing.  This does not mean the tax system will always be fair or that the government will use money wisely.  It does provide motivation to be involved in the governing process.  
Pay your taxes with a prayer for those in decision-making positions and for wise, effective, life-affirming use of all that revenue.  Be thankful for the government services from which we routinely benefit (including teachers, police, firemen, and the military) and insist that these folks be paid (by your taxes) at a level commensurate with the essential nature of the services they provide.  
And pray that the tax code might be simplified!