Written Word

Mark 12:14-15 – “Is it right to pay taxes… Should we pay or shouldn’t we?”

There will always be those who will do everything they can to avoid paying all the taxes they owe, and those who avoid paying taxes altogether. But paying taxes – whether income tax, corporate tax, state tax, value added tax or any other form of taxation – is our duty as Christians.

In Jesus’ day, the Romans occupied Palestine. The people questioning Jesus wanted to know whether they had an obligation to pay taxes to the occupying power. ‘”Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” But Jesus knew the hypocrisy that lay behind their question. “Why are you trying to trap me?” he asked. “Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.’ (Mark 12:14-17) Our Lord’s teaching is clear; we must pay our lawful taxes.

The Bible teaches that governments are instituted by God for the overall benefit of society. Those in power are there, not to benefit themselves, but to serve the greater community. This is how God has always wanted governments to function. “Therefore,” the Bible says, “it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.” (Romans 13:5-7) The benefits we receive by paying our taxes are obvious. In our homes we have several taps from which to access clean water. We have a health service that underdeveloped countries can only dream about, a fire brigade service that responds within minutes to an emergency, a police force and judicial system that are subject to public scrutiny, a welfare programme that is available to all. These benefits come out of the taxes we pay. When we fail to pay our taxes, we are creating a bigger tax burden for others and reducing the amount of funding that can be given to those in our society who are most in need.

We are not always satisfied with the way our taxes are spent, but that is not a good reason for not paying them. When we pay our taxes we are honouring the instruction the Lord has given. We do it “for the Lord’s sake.” (1 Peter 2:13) And if we were to ask Jesus today, “Is it right to pay taxes… Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” he would give the same answer he gave back then: Yes, pay your taxes.