Catherine Magadzire Correspondent
Matthew 22:17-21 — “Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God . . .”
Taxes may be defined as a compulsory contribution to State revenue, levied by the Government on workers’ income and business profits, or added to the cost of some goods, services, and transactions.
Therefore higher taxes will dampen consumer spending and consumers will struggle to make ends meet.
Taxes may come in the form of levy, tariff, duty, toll, excise, impost, contribution, assessment, tribute, charge and or fee.
Tribute was the tax paid to the Roman government during the Bible times. Caesar was the Roman emperor, meaning a ruler of the Roman government.
The name Caesar, after the time of Julius Caesar, became common to all the emperors, as Pharaoh was the common name of all the kings of Egypt. So Caesar was representing the ruling government during this time in the Bible as laid out by Matthew.
Matthew is one of the twelve called by Jesus Christ at the commencement of his ministry in the New Testament.
Matthew by the way was a tax collector before being called to become one of his disciples.
This account of Matthew was also recorded in Mark 12 vs 13 to17 and Luke 20 vs 19 to 26 to show the gravity of the matter. This subject of taxes is also relevant to us as Christians today as we live in societies that have governments that call for taxes.
Typically in Zimbabwe the issue has become a hot subject among people as the honourable Minister of Finance and Economic Development Professor Mthuli Ncube has announced new taxes.
As Christians who are guided by the Bible we should pay taxes. As stated by definition, taxes are compulsory, meaning they are mandatory.
This means that we have no choice but to pay taxes. And, where there is enforcement, failure to comply can lead to one being punished.
Hence Jesus says to avoid such, pay your dues.
Back to basics
As a Christian, why should one pay: Romans 13:6-7. When you do not pay tax you are but a hypocrite.
1. When you proclaim to Love God and not pay tax you are but a hypocrite. A hypocrite is a pretender or deceiver. The Bible calls the devil the deceiver. Hence as a child of God, you may not be a deceiver.
The inscription on money, be it coins or notes, is an inscription of government hence render the things of the government to the government.
2. We pay taxes as we are commanded to by His word. God expects us to obey.
Obedience is better than sacrifice
Romans 13:1-7: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
“Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.
“Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.
“For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience…”
3. We pay taxes as a principle of Christian living.
Romans 13:7-8: “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed.
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
4. We also pay taxes as a measure to avoid God’s wrath. And for a clear conscience.
Romans 13:5-7: “Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed.”
5. It is a commandment to be subject to government. Meaning to be dealt with. They have been given authority by God and hence are accountable to God.
Romans 13:1: “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”
6.Otherwise you attract judgment when you don’t pay.
Romans 13:2: “Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
7. We pay taxes as an act of following the will of God
Matthew 21:31-32: “Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.
“For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”
Jesus Christ expects us to follow the Will of God in everything we do as Christians.
Paying taxes is following God’s will.
However, God demands fairness on the tax regime.
Luke 3:12-13: Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”
No one is above God. God also governs the tax collectors.
In Luke Jesus Christ instructs tax collectors not to over-collect. He teaches them not to over-collect as this was bound to bring a further burden to the already burdened citizens.
Jesus Christ expects fairness on the tax collection.
There are examples to follow as Christians. Our Lord Jesus Christ paid taxes.
Matthew 17:24-27: When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offence to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”
As Christians we are servants of Christ. A servant cannot be superior to his master . . . as we are servants of Christ. We follow examples of our master.
Matthew 10:24: “The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master. Even Mary and Joseph obeyed the law of paying taxes.”
Luke 2:1-6: “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered . . .”
Abraham, who is an example of faith, paid taxes.
Genesis 14:20: “And blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.
As Christians we are the children of Abraham whom God made the example of wealth.
“Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.”
Hence we follow the acts of faith done by our father as we learn from him.
In Conclusion, God provides for the tax. Don’t be troubled. Peter was sent to get the money for tax from a fish.
When you are obedient to God’s instruction He will open unexpected doors for you to fulfil your obligation. The word of God says He blesses the work of our hands.
-Catherine Magadzire is a pastor of Revealed Church of Christ.