Christian, Pay Your Taxes

Tax Day is no holiday. But Christians need to approach this day in a holy way nonetheless. To do this, we need to know what the Bible teaches about taxes. Now, the simple answer is to pay them. But let’s take a closer look.

The Ancient History of Taxes

Based upon archaeological records from the Ancient Near East city of Lagash, we know that governments imposed taxation as early as 2500 BC. And Joseph levied a 20 percent grain tax on Egypt to prepare for an impending famine, which was a wise and responsible strategy (Genesis 41:25-42:5). Furthermore, the Bible discloses that both Solomon and Jehoshaphat imposed robust tax codes. So taxation is an ancient, universal practice. But should Christian pay their taxes today?

Taxes in the New Testament

When we read the New Testament, we find taxes to be a recurring topic for discussion. The Roman government required Jews to pay federal taxes. These taxes included an income tax, a poll tax, port duties, sales taxes, an auction tax and an estate duty. In addition, all Jews 20 years of age and older were required to pay an annual tax to support the Jerusalem temple (Matt. 17:24).

As you might guess, people questioned Jesus about both of these taxes, to the Roman government and to the Temple. A question about the Temple tax is recorded in Matt. 17:25. And multiple questions about taxes levied by the Roman empire are recorded in Matt. 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25. In every case, the questions reveal doubt and displeasure about paying these taxes. But in every case, Jesus clearly affirms our moral obligation to pay them.

Jesus clearly affirms our moral obligation to pay taxes.

Furthermore, the apostle Paul reinforced this principle, instructing Christians to pay their taxes, even when a corrupt government was in power (Rom. 13:5-7). In Acts 5:37, reference is made to a man called Judas of Galilee, who led a Jewish tax revolt. And this event is framed negatively as “fighting against God” (Acts 5:39). There was nothing noble about it. But there is another taxation story given that teaches a powerful and positive lesson.

Federal Taxes and Fulfilled Prophecy

In Luke 2:1, the Roman emperor levied a worldwide poll tax. Joseph and Mary, both believing Jews, traveled to the little town of Bethlehem to register and pay their tax. And by obeying this federal tax law, they arrived in Bethlehem just in time for Jesus to be born. What’s remarkable about this is that doing so fulfilled a very detailed prophecy from Micah 5:2, given some 700 years earlier. How did this precise, virtually impossible prophecy come to be fulfilled? By an obedient believer obeying an inconvenient federal tax law.

Conclusion

Dear Christian, pay your taxes. There is no virtue in evading this duty. God ordains it, and disobedience to this command or dishonesty in how you do it both dishonors him and damages your testimony for the gospel.

Disobedience or dishonesty in paying taxes dishonors God and damages your testimony for the gospel.

Still, even the most obedient Christians may still be misrepresented or maligned. Even Jesus, who clearly and repeatedly affirmed the importance of tax compliance, was falsely accused by authorities of inciting tax evasion (Luke 23:2). But in the courtroom of heaven, he remained entirely innocent.

It is better to pay your taxes according to the law and be falsely accused than to be audited only to reveal that you refused to comply or deceived the government in doing so. A clean conscience before God and man on this point is far more valuable than any money you may gain by not doing so.

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