Paying taxes is a form of godliness for the believer, for we support divinely established institutions of government and believe in the rule of law (Rom. 13:1-5). As submitting Christians, we pay taxes to our city, state, and federal government. Paul writes, “For because of this [submission to government] you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Rom 13:6-7).
Paying taxes to support the government is clearly biblical. But aren’t governments sometimes corrupt? And if I pay taxes, am I held accountable for the government’s corrupt use of that money?
Jesus paid the temple tax (Matt. 17:24-27), which was required under the Mosaic Law (Ex. 30:13-15). He also taught it was valid to pay taxes to the Roman government (Luke 20:22), saying, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Luke 20:25). Jesus never committed sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 John 3:5), and even though He paid taxes, He was not responsible for how those taxes were used.
The temple in Jesus’ day was under the control of corrupt leaders—Sadducees, Pharisees and Scribes—and some of the tax money given to the temple found its way in the pockets of godless men who used it for sinful purposes. Roman taxes paid the salaries of Roman officials and soldiers, some of whom wrongly judged our Lord and nailed Him to a cross. God sovereignly controls governments, even corrupt governments, and the actions of sinful men can be used to accomplish His will (John 19:10-11; Acts 2:22-23; 4:26-28). Occasional failure on the part of the state does not negate the authority of those whom God has delegated the right to rule. God sets up kings and nations, and He also removes them (Dan. 2:21; 4:17, 25; Rom. 13:1-5). As Christians, we are to pray for rulers (1 Tim. 2:1-4; cf. Jer. 29:7) and be subject to their authority (Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17). We obey until we are commanded to act contrary to God’s Word, and then we say no (Dan. 3:16-18; Acts 5:29).
In the US, Christians are to pay taxes. Tax dollars are used to pay salaries for military personnel, police officers, fire fighters, teachers, social workers, and to cover the cost for roads and highways, public transportation, medical benefits, subsidized housing for seniors and disabled persons, food for the hungry, clothing and shelter for the homeless, and so on. I work for a nonprofit organization that feeds the elderly and disabled in my community and approximately 45% of our annual budget comes from tax dollars. I also work with other social agencies that help the impoverished in society and I see the many good uses of tax dollars. Certainly there is corruption in some social agencies and this means some tax dollars are used for immoral purposes. However, one should not overlook the many good uses of tax dollars in our society and the many good people who serve as God’s ministers.
Thank you to all the godly Christians in America who pay your taxes and help support the best moral practices in our society.
Steven R. Cook, M.Div.