Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Should I Pay Taxes?

It’s tax day! As a Christian do I have a Biblical out from paying Uncle Sam? Yesterday I introduced the day that a group of Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to try to trap Him using the subject of taxes. Luke 20:20 tells us that they went to him as spies. In other words, they were pretending to be His followers. According to Mark 12:13-17, they started with flattery to try to disarm Him and cause Him to let down His guard. Their hope was that He would say something ill-advised that they could use against Him. According to verse 15, Jesus saw right through their hypocrisy. By the way, He always does. Whatever area of your life you are pretending in, you may be able to fool you mate, your kids, your friends, and even your church, but you can’t fool Jesus. He sees the areas of hypocrisy in your life and in mine and He sees them each and every time.

These pretenders asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay a poll tax to Caesar. Among the many other taxes Jews had to pay, this one was most grievous because it went right into the emperor’s treasury, as if he needed it. It was paid by a coin called a denarius. This was the equivalent of a full day’s wages and had on it the image of Caesar. The image of Caesar was all over the Roman world because much of their religion centered around the worship of Caesar as God. Interestingly enough, the two groups who came to Jesus with the question would have disagreed themselves on the answer. The Pharisees would have said NO to paying the poll tax while the Herodians would have said YES (be sure to read my blog from yesterday to understand why this is so).

Verse 13 of Mark 12 tells us that their question was a trap. They wanted to get Jesus between the proverbial rock and hard place. If He answered YES to paying taxes, they could say He was being disloyal to God and endorsing Caesar worship. If He said NO to paying taxes, they could turn Him over to Rome as a troublemaker and zealot. Jesus keeps His pattern going by responding to their question with a question. He asks to see a Roman denarius and then asks whose image is on the coin. They respond that it is the image of Caesar. Jesus then says to render to Caesar that which is Caesars. In other words, if Caesar’s image is on the coin and that is what he has asked for, give it to him. By saying this, Jesus was showing the legitimacy of Caesar and Rome as a governmental authority. Folks, listen, as followers of Jesus we are obligated to pay our taxes to Caesar.

But then Jesus adds a final statement. He says, “Render to God that which is God’s.” In other words, if Caesar’s image is on the coin and that is what He asks for, give it to him. In the same way, we should also give God that which we have that has His image on it and which He asks us to give back to Him. What is that? According to Genesis 1:26-27, God created each of us, male and female, in His image. The image of God is on our life and according to Romans 12:1-2, it is our life as His children and followers that He has asked us to give back to Him. So on this tax day in America, write your checks to Uncle Sam and get them in the mail. But don’t forget the greater payment that you owe. Today is also the day that should remind us that we should present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is our reasonable service of worship.

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