GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP)–In the United States, April 15 is more than the middle of the fourth month. It is the deadline date that the Internal Revenue Service has set requiring that we submit our tax reports.
How should Christians view tax day, or as some would ask, why should Christians pay their taxes?
Well, taxation without representation was an inflammatory issue early in American history. Although circumstances are different now and we no longer pay taxes to Great Britain, many issues, political and practical, still revolve around concerns over tax revenues.
One might wonder whether ordinary citizens actually are being represented appropriately at all when it comes to taxation. Bridges to nowhere, attempts to bail out financial institutions and save industries, and other immoderate acts by our elected representatives could certainly give one pause for reflection when it comes to paying taxes.
In fact, the idea of paying taxes at all is still a concern to many people who wonder whether they can legally get out of paying their income taxes each year. And, of course, to meet that sort of thinking, there are groups that falsely teach that we don’t have to pay our income taxes.
While certain aspects of our tax system are without a doubt constitutionally questionable, the federal tax courts and the Supreme Court of the United States have held thus far that the tax system is both constitutional and legal. And, we have adopted a form of government in which the courts — and not the individual — decide legality. Therefore, we must observe those laws and pay our taxes.
The biblical mandate of a Christian’s duty to the state is found in Romans 13:1-2: “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God. So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves.”
Then, in Titus 3:1-2, Paul writes: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to slander no one, to avoid fighting, and to be kind, always showing gentleness to all people.”
The Bible speaks of no requirement that the authority to which we submit be correct or righteous, but only that we obey as long as it doesn’t contradict God’s Word. The Roman government Paul served under was far worse than we in America could ever imagine; yet these same words admonish God’s children today to honor our leaders -– local, state and national.
The Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with one of their questions, asking if He thought it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar — the state. “Jesus said, ‘Why are you testing Me, hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the tax.’ So they brought Him a denarius. ‘Whose image and inscription is this?’ He asked them. ‘Caesar’s,’ they said to Him. Then He said to them, ‘Therefore, give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s'” (Matthew 22:18-21).
Jesus made no distinction between what was legal and what was unfair; He simply said to give what is due to the government and give what is due to God.
There may be legal points of the income tax laws that are constitutionally questionable. Nevertheless, we have a system in this country that requires us to obey the laws that are created by our legislators.
Therefore, whatever the legal requirement is in paying taxes, as Christians our main concern should be with the biblical responsibility to pay taxes.
The tax laws in America were established under the authority of the U.S. Constitution, Article I, Sections 2, 8, and 9, and Amendment XVI:
— Article I, Section 2 says, “Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union …”
— Article I, Section 8 says, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States.”
— Article I, Section 9 says, “No capitation, or other direct, tax shall be laid, unless in proportion to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken..”
— Amendment XVI says, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”
Although a person should not have to pay more than is necessary, paying the federal income tax is certainly not a voluntary matter. It is the law — and as long as taxpayers are not compelled to do something outside of God’s Word, Christians must obey that law.
And, while remembering the legal part of paying our income tax to “Caesar,” don’t forget the first part of that income belongs to God.
Howard Dayton is co-founder of Crown Financial Ministries and the current host of Crown’s radio program, “Money Matters.” Dayton and the late Larry Burkett joined forces in 2000 when Crown Ministries, led by Dayton, merged with Christian Financial Concepts, led by Burkett. The new organization became Crown Financial Ministries, on the web at www.crown.org.