Render To Caesar
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.2 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
Well, it’s tax season again! As Americans go through the unpleasant process of filing (and the angst and uncertainty of whether or not accidental tax fraud has occurred), it’s important to remember some positive lessons.
First, the fact that we have an organized and relatively efficient government is one of the great blessings we take for granted. Most humans throughout history have lived under enormous tyranny or chaos. For all the complaining we do about the government, even a quick look at the kingdoms of men (both current and historic) shows how fortunate we are. Just like in Solomon’s time, in spite of obvious corruption a “king who cultivates the fields is an advantage to the land” (Ecc. 5:8-9). He means that having almost any kind of civic structure is better than having none at all. Anarchy is harmful.
This is probably also why Paul and other early Christians accepted their place under Roman rule. For all the corruption and brutality of that great empire, its postal system, well-built roads, relatively fair laws, and its policy of “no-tolerance” for piracy in the Mediterranean made the dissemination of the gospel much smoother. The Pax Romana served a divine purpose. Remember, “at the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6); as in, under the right conditions, as God saw fit in His incredible providence.
Both Paul (Romans 13) and Peter (1 Peter 2) told Christians to submit to their governments, pay taxes, and offer prayers for peace in the land. They worked within the framework of secular laws to promote their faith (Paul used his citizenship to get out of harm’s way in Acts 22:25ff and also took advantage of the legal system to appeal to Caesar in Acts 25:11).
Finally, as you’re gritting teeth this month finalizing your tax forms, try to take some joy from the fact that taxes are an expression of honesty and disclosure. Honest people welcome scrutiny without shame as they participate in their civic duties!