Income Taxes- A "Necessary Evil"?

by Attorney David M. Hnath

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I am sure that everyone has heard the saying "two things are certain in life, death and taxes." Some people will do anything they can to avoid paying taxes. No one wants to pay taxes. Someone who enjoys paying taxes probably enjoys going to the dentist for a root canal-- without a pain killer! But, like a root canal, paying taxes is not only painful, but necessary.

Why should we pay taxes? It costs money to run a government -- salaries, services, etc. must be paid for. Where does the money come from? Income taxes, estate taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, social security taxes- the list is endless! Down through the years, people have challenged the government's right to tax -- to no avail.

Even as far back as when Jesus walked this earth, religious leaders were questioning whether taxes should be paid. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of the Jews, resented Roman rule, right down to the inscriptions on the Roman coins which equated the emperor with God on one side and called him the "highest priest" on the other. The Herodians, on the other hand, were the "political activists" among the Jews -- they were more interested in political issues than religious ones.

How did Jesus respond? The Pharisees and the Herodians put Jesus between a rock and a high place when they asked Him, "Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" (Mark 12:14, NIV). If He said "yes" the Pharisees would accuse Him of blasphemy. If He said "no" the Herodians would accuse Him of treason.

Jesus' answer shocked both groups. Pointing out the pictures of Caesar and the inscriptions that appeared on the coins, Jesus said "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22:21, NIV). In one fell swoop, Jesus recognized the political authority of Caesar (which ultimately comes from God) and the spiritual authority of God.

Paul was direct and to the point. He wrote: "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.. Therefore it is necessary to submit to the authorities.. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants.. If you owe taxes, pay taxes" (Romans 13:1,5-7, NIV).

But what if the government is misusing the tax money- certainly we can't be a party to that? At no time in history did a government "misuse" tax money more than the Rome of Caesar and Nero -- yet go back and re-read what Jesus and Paul said about paying taxes!

Nowhere in the Bible does it say pay more than your due amount of taxes, and nowhere does God's Word give us a justifiable excuse for cheating on our taxes.

First printed in The American Night Watch Newsletter, Volume IV, Part 1, January 1996.

Copyright 1999 David M. Hnath. All Rights Reserved.

The American Night Watch is a trademark of the Christian ministry of Sterling M. Durgy.

Quotes are from the New International Version of The Holy Bible. New International Version and NIV are registered trademarks of the International Bible Society.

Permission is granted to reprint this article as long as the copyright is included, this statement is included, and the article is not sold to the recipients.

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This page was last updated October 22, 1999.