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Monthly Devotion

april 2024

What Does the Bible Say About Paying Taxes?

There have been many jokes told about tax day, IRS agents, people who do tax returns, etc.  So here is one I heard a long time ago.

There was a man standing in front of a crowd, and he took a lemon out of a bag and squeezed it dry. He said, “If anyone can squeeze another drop out of this lemon, I'll give them 100 bucks.” Many people tried and no one could get any juice out of the lemon. Finally, a man came up and squeezed out two drops of lemon juice. Handing him his $100, the first man asked in wonder, “Who are you?” The second man replied, “I’m an IRS agent”.

Taxes are real.  For people who are expecting a return, this is a great season, but for those who owe the government, this is a dreaded season.  For CPAs this is a wonderful season of making money, and for the CPA's family is a time of missing the person because of the number of hours being worked.

I like to think of my tax return filing as the day I finish all of the accounting for my public services.  Today is the day I paid for the roads I drive on, the protection of my country from foreign countries, the salaries of public servants, the use of community parks, the beauty of the community art in our town, and streets to be cleaned.  Some of these things are tremendous and some are periodically a let-down.  Certainly, I don't always have the same opinion with the way some of the money is spent, but this reference point of some of the things I get helps me.

Feeling anxious about your tax liability as April 15 nears? The Bible has many references to taxes that will sound strangely relevant at this time of year — beginning with the story of David and Goliath.

 

Many remember a teenage boy offended by insults thrown by a giant foe against his nation and God himself, who volunteers to go into battle with a slingshot. But did you know that a tax incentive was part of his prize?

 

Visiting the battlefield, David learns: “The king will give great wealth to the man who kills (Goliath) and will exempt his family from taxes in Israel.”

 

Throughout the Scripture, tax discussions mark many passages, as ancient men and women worried about how they would pay.

In Matthew 17, Jesus noted that rulers often use taxes against people without power. In the story, Jesus and Peter talk about the temple tax. Men, ages 20-50, had to pay this tax, which helped pay for the upkeep of the Jewish temple. Jesus asks if kings tax their own kids. The assumed answer is, “Of course they don’t.”

Jesus is saying that the tax is for the temple, which is God’s house. Since he is the King’s Son, he is exempt from the tax. Still, Jesus sends Peter to catch a fish and promises that inside the fish he’ll find the money to pay the tax for them both (Matthew 17:27). So, Jesus avoids offense and displays his unique power as God’s Son.

When speaking with Peter about taxes, Jesus says that “the sons are free.” The miracle that follows doesn’t just pay for Jesus; it pays for Peter, too. Later, Jesus’ resurrection won’t just mean new life for Jesus. It will mean new life for all of His followers, too. Because of Jesus’ saving work, anyone with faith in Jesus has been adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 1:5).

And yet, when demanding that Jesus be crucified, tax avoidance was levied as an accusation. “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”

For the party in power, tax avoidance might have been the greatest offense.

Even so, the truth remains that a healthy respect for reasonable taxes is part of faith-based culture. Writing in Romans 13, the Apostle Paul urged respect for government because of the vital role leaders play in society, an admonition that goes beyond mere money: “This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 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.”

Such a standard requires civil interaction and mutual respect, important reminders for today’s toxic political culture. And every IRS agent can take comfort in the fact that Jesus himself had a tax collector (Matthew) as a disciple. So, pay your taxes, treat authorities with honor and know that nothing new is under the sun — not even the IRS.

 

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