Jesus Does Not Endorse Paying Taxes
August 29, 2007
In a recent post titled, Did Jesus Endorse Paying Taxes? by spiritual mentor and political activist John Paul Mitchell claims Jesus Christ, as political teacher and activist, never endorsed paying taxes. Here’s what he wrote:
My former mentor use to teach his students that they should pay their taxes. He would quote Jesus to reinforce the teaching of paying taxes. However, he would quote Jesus out of context, isolating one or two verses to support his teaching.
When we examine teachings from the Holy Bible or any Scripture, we should take them in context, both historical and literal.
Paying Temple Taxes
Matthew 17:24-27 states:
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
If you were a parent and had your children of 18 years or younger living with you, would you charge them anything to live with you? Would you require they pay a tax to eat the food you bought them for nourishment? Would you require they pay a tax to use their bedroom as a living quarters? Would you charge your children a tax to play in the backyard?
Of course not!
The government is the parent. And the people are the children. It is the responsibility of the government to keep us safe and ensure we have everything we need to live appropriately.
Paying Taxes to the Government
In Matthew 17:24-27, Jesus says we are not obligated, even by Law, to pay our taxes. If we pay our taxes to our governments or established institutions, then we should do it only as a courtesy. Paying taxes is optional.
Matthew 22:16-22 states:
Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.
Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.
And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
What do we learn from this scene? We know the Pharisees sent their disciples to Jesus, trying to deceive and entrap him. They asked what a Jew should do about paying taxes to the Roman empire. Since the Jews were under oppression from the Romans, answering a loaded question like this was comparable to walking a tightrope hundreds of feet in the air without a safety net.
Jesus’ response at first may seem like a call to pay taxes. However, when we dig deeper, we realize that Jesus was telling the Jews to give back the Roman money to the Roman ruler, Caesar.
Whenever money is coined and distributed into any economic system, past or present, the currency issued by that government still belongs to that government. Jesus was very aware that the money distributed to his people (the Jews) did not belong to the government of Israel, but to the ruler and government of Rome.
His statement, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” is a revolutionary statement. His statement is a loaded weapon.
Jesus clearly defines the coins or currency belonging to Caesar. If the money rightfully belongs to Caesar, then the Jews must therefore give all coins to Caesar. If the Jews practiced what Jesus said, then they do not give just a few coins, in the case of taxes, but they must give it all, because it was manufactured by the Roman government. It was a complete denial of the Roman monetary system.
The second half of the above statement is also a revolutionary call to the Jews. The Jews were considered God’s people. Jesus is calling the Jewish people to give themselves back to God. At least in Jesus’ era, the only way to do this would have been to revolt against their oppressors.
What better way to revolt than to dump all the coins distributed to the Jews on the steps of Caesar’s palace?