When we see our government openly embracing practices which God abhors, I wonder if this is a time not to “render unto Caesar”? I do not feel right about paying taxes to a government that endorses some of the godless policies which our present administration is adopting. I would appreciate your comments.
Your question raises two excellent points.
- Are we obligated to pay taxes even when our moral and spiritual beliefs and values clash with those in authority?
- By paying taxes are we endorsing the views of those in authority?
In Luke 20, Jesus was asked, “Is it lawful for us pay taxes to Caesar, or no?” The people were asking about their obligation to political authorities. Jesus asked them to show Him “a penny” and asked, “Whose image and inscription does it have?” They answered, “Caesar’s.” Then Jesus replied, “Render therefore to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and to God the things which are God’s” (Luke 20:22-25). Our money is “Caesar’s,” a product of our present government and not of God. Accordingly we must handle it as “Caesar” dictates. To do otherwise is to defy authority and so to dishonor God, which we must not do. In the words of the apostle Paul, “The authorities that exist are appointed by God …. Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities … Whoever resists the authority, resists the ordinance of God” (Rom. 13:1-2).
Paul also spoke directly about the matter of paying taxes. He said, “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due; customs to whom customs; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Rom. 13:7). Or as it is translated in the New International Version, “Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
Actually, if we were to compare our “Caesar” today with the Caesar in Paul’s day, we might feel more comfortable rendering to ours. Today’s government is corrupt; but Paul’s even more so. Additionally the government in Paul’s day was totalitarian, not democratic. We can thank God that our Caesar does not oppress us, that we are not mistreated because of our religious convictions, that we are allowed the free exercise of our religion. We can also be thankful that we are not forced to support our Caesar politically nor must we be entangled in its operation. The extent of our duty lies in obeying the laws of our government, which includes paying the taxes that our government assesses.
This brings us to the second issue in question: By paying taxes are we supporting the godless practices and unchristian values of the present system?
While large portions of our tax dollars do go to causes that we as Christians cannot espouse, we are not accountable for the actions of Caesar. And Caesar is not under covenant to Divine law. God never condones wrong, but He does not judge Caesar by the laws that govern God’s servants.
We must also remember that although tax money is misappropriated, there are also benefits to be derived. In fact, the less we concern ourselves with our government’s misspending (which we are powerless to change) and instead appreciate the good that it accomplishes, the more mental peace we will have and the freer we will be to spend our time, energy and thought in service to God. For example, think how different our lives would be if we did not have the road systems, the bridges, the waterways, and the utilities which benefit us continually. And even though we do not participate in the military organizations of our government, we would not want to live in a country that did not have any military or police forces to protect or defend us.
As committed servants of God, we are under obligation to be good stewards of all that has been entrusted to us, be it our life, our strength, our money, or our temporal resources. Stewardship is part of our Christian duty, and an opportunity for us to prove that we are able to handle wisely the little that we have now so that we may be trusted with more in the future. If we show ourselves able to administer what we have in a wise and God-fearing manner, not selfishly hoarding it, not setting our affections upon it, not using it in any selfish way but meeting our needs and furthering the cause of God, then we are setting an example that will bring honor to God and will be letting our light shine before others, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:16).
God does not ask us to endorse the actions of our present government, and were we to try to change it we would be entangling ourselves in its affairs, which we are commanded not to do (2 Tim. 2:4-5). We belong to “another country”; our “citizenship is in heaven,” therefore we are no part of the present arrangement (Phil. 3:20-21).
The present arrangement, its best and its worst, is only temporary; and nothing will hinder God’s cause or future work on earth.When the time is right He will act.
But even though we cannot endorse all the actions and institutions of our present government, we should thank God for it and pray, as did the apostle Paul, that those in authority may so legislate and govern that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty (1 Tim. 2:2).
We cannot expect the situation to improve until Christ returns, but it is a shelter within which we can live and serve God acceptably, “rendering unto Caesar” according to the dictates of Caesar so long as Caesar’s demands do not conflict with the law of God. We are not accountable for how Caesar uses or misuses what we render, nor do we need to concern ourselves with such issues. Our duty is to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, then involve ourselves in our greater duty of rendering to God the things which are God’s—which includes the proper and God-fearing use of everything we have and are.