Should You Pay Your Taxes?
“Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”—Romans 13:7, New International Version.
IN THE face of escalating taxation, the above advice may seem hard to swallow. However, those are the words of the apostle Paul, and they are recorded in the Bible. No doubt you respect the Bible. But you may wonder, ‘Must Christians really pay all taxes—including those some may consider unreasonable or unjust?’
Think about the admonition Jesus gave to his disciples. He knew that his Jewish countrymen bitterly resented the taxes imposed by Rome. Despite this, Jesus urged: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Mark 12:17) Interestingly, Jesus advocated paying tax to the very regime that would shortly execute him.
A few years later, Paul gave the advice quoted at the outset. He urged the paying of taxes, in spite of the fact that large amounts of tax money were used to fund Rome’s military and to support the immoral and excessive life-style of the Roman emperors. Why did Paul take such an unpopular stance?
Consider the context of Paul’s words. At Romans 13:1, he wrote: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God.” When the nation of Israel had God-fearing rulers, it was easy to view supporting the nation financially as a civic and religious duty. But did Christians have a similar responsibility when the rulers were unbelieving idol worshipers? Yes, they did! Paul’s words showed that God had granted rulers the “authority” to rule.
Governments do a great deal to maintain order. This allows Christians to carry on their various spiritual activities. (Matthew 24:14; Hebrews 10:24, 25) Paul thus said regarding the prevailing governmental authority: “It is God’s minister to you for your good.” (Romans 13:4) Paul himself took advantage of the protection the Roman government offered. For example, when he found himself the victim of a mob, he was saved by Roman soldiers. Later he appealed to the Roman judicial system so that he could continue serving as a missionary.—Acts 22:22-29; 25:11, 12.
Paul therefore gave three reasons for paying taxes. First, he spoke about the “wrath” of the governments in punishing lawbreakers. Second, he explained that a godly individual’s conscience would be adversely affected if he cheated on his taxes. Finally, he indicated that taxes are simply compensation for the services governments perform as “public servants.”—Romans 13:1-6.
Did Paul’s fellow Christians take his words to heart? Evidently so, for the second-century nominal Christian writer Justin Martyr (about 110 to 165 C.E.) said that Christians paid their taxes “more readily than all men.” Today, when governments require payments, be they time or money, Christians continue to comply willingly.—Matthew 5:41.*
Of course, Christians are free to take advantage of any legal tax deductions. In some instances, they may be in a position to avail themselves of tax advantages granted to those contributing to religious organizations. Nevertheless, in obedience to God’s Word, true Christians do not engage in tax evasion. They pay their taxes, letting the authorities take full responsibility for how they use the money.
Excessive taxation is just one way in which “man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Jehovah’s Witnesses take comfort in the Bible’s promise that soon justice will prevail for all under God’s government—a government that will never burden people with unjust taxes.—Psalm 72:12, 13; Isaiah 9:7.
Jesus’ counsel to pay “Caesar’s things to Caesar” was not necessarily limited to paying taxes. (Matthew 22:21) The Critical and Exegetical Hand-Book to the Gospel of Matthew, by Heinrich Meyer, explains: “By [Caesar’s things] . . . we are not to understand merely the civil tax, but everything to which Caesar was entitled in virtue of his legitimate rule.”
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Early Christians paid their taxes “more readily than all men.”—JUSTIN MARTYR
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True Christians obey tax laws
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Jesus said: “Pay back Caesar’s things to Caesar”
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© European Monetary Institute