What Did Jesus Say About Paying Taxes?

Mark 12 documents an encounter Jesus had with the Pharisees and Herodians as they were trying to trap Him. He not only deflected their trap, but also laid out  straightforward guidance for all of us in regards to submission to government and paying taxes.

Mark 12: 13-16

Jesus Answers the Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes

      13Then they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him in order to trap Him in a statement. 14They came and said to Him, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not? 15“Shall we pay or shall we not pay?” But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.” 16They brought one. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” And they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” 17And Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.

Clearly Jesus did not agree with everything the Romans were doing, but He still gave guidance to pay the taxes to Caesar. Some may speculate that He was just deflecting the trap question, but Jesus never provided a wrong answer just to avoid a trap. He always took the opportunity to address the trap and make a point on the right way of doing things also.

For those who need more convincing… the Bible has it.

Romans 13:1-7

Be Subject to Government

      1Every 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. 2Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

It is ok to work lawfully to reduce the tax burden. Governments usually waste money badly. Often they spend on things which may not honor God. However, just refusing to pay is not the guidance that Jesus provided for His people.

We can also recognize that not all governments are acting as described in Romans 13. Some persecute followers of Christ openly and actively. You could perhaps debate then if you are required to pay taxes, but to what end? To give them more cause persecute you? The government was no friend to Paul as a follower of Christ as he wrote Romans. Keep that in mind.

We can debate the “why” Jesus gives this instruction. Perhaps it is as simple as the fact that He does not want Christians to be misunderstood by unbelievers as lawbreakers, unruly, selfish, greedy, and rebellious on matters that do not offend God. Maybe He does not want His people putting their freedom at risk or constantly distracted by a fear of arrest so that they live not in the fullness of joy He intends. Maybe he wants us to be content with what we have and avoid greed.

It is indeed different if the government calls us to reject our God or  His instructions. Then there well may be times where we refuse to obey as we stand for a higher authority, our Father and Creator, if there is a direct conflict between the laws of men and the laws of God.

This article was developed in partnership with GrowGodsMoney.org.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

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