Journey Through The Bible
Old Testament Reading: Genesis 41-44
New Testament Reading: Luke 20
They questioned him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach correctly, and you don’t show partiality but teach truthfully the way of God. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
But detecting their craftiness, he said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?” “Caesar’s,” they said. “Well then,” he told them, “give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Luke 20: 21- 25).
Anyone who has ever earned an income in the US knows the importance of April 15th. It’s Tax Day. Jesus was asked about paying taxes and His answer to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar is well known.
There are two terms related to taxes that sound similar but have vastly different meanings. They are Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance, and Jesus has something to say about them both.
Tax Evasion is the term used to describe cheating on your taxes. It’s paying fewer taxes than you owe by claiming false deductions, under-reporting your income, and/or over-reporting your expenses. This is dishonest, illegal, and, according to Jesus, a sin.
As Christians, we are to pay Caesar (the government) what we owe to Caesar. We are to pay our taxes what we legally owe to the IRS. But Jesus did not stop there. He also said, and to God the things that are God’s (Luke 20: 25).
Tax Avoidance is the term used for taking all the maximum legal deductions to avoid overpaying your taxes. The classic description of tax avoidance was written in the landmark 1935 Income Tax case. Judge Learned Hand wrote, “Anyone may arrange their affairs to keep their taxes as low as possible. Nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.”
Not only is this our right as citizens, but as Christians, it is good stewardship. How can we give to God what belongs to God if we give more than we legally owe to the government?
Christians are to live as good citizens and obey those in authority. Even if we cannot respect the person in office, we must respect the office. But first and foremost, we are to bring God glory and honor and that includes being a good steward of all that we are and all that we have.
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