All of you sports aficionados know Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers and his infamous frustration talk about “practice” during a press conference, which was held more than a decade and a half ago. No, I’m not here to talk about practice either. Someone wants me to talk about taxes; yes, taxes. Even though I already said I wouldn’t “blog” much this year because of too many upcoming commitments, I just couldn’t resist this request from someone who happens to dislike what taxpayers money gets used for. Besides, it’s tax season so why not. When asked about taxes and Christianity, the first response we often get is “give to Cesar what is Cesar’s.” Sadly, we use this quote from Jesus so much for taxes that we miss the overall message that Jesus was trying to send when he made the statement. By so doing, we ignore the most important part of His message. Read Matthew 22:15-22 and let’s talk taxes.
Before going into what Jesus’ overall message was, let me make some quick points on taxes. Should a Christian pay taxes? I hate to say YES but I don’t get to make the call or the rules. It’s the law and it does not contradict the scriptures. I saw a very persuasive email on all the “wrong things” tax payer’s money get used for. Some people are angry because of the things taxpayers money is spent on. To these people, I’ll say, let that be between the government and God. Do your part just like you would with a homeless person who may end up spending your money on something you don’t like. Obviously, in the later, you have more control of who you give your hard earned money to but doing what is right is not a matter of opinion, and I’ll clarify.
Matthew 22:17-21 – “…Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”
Yes, they were trying to trap Jesus and didn’t ask about the law. Yes, they only wanted His opinion as seen in verse 17, so this should be a matter of opinion as some would say. My response would be, don’t you think that Jesus’ opinion should take priority over yours? Jesus called them hypocrites because they knew it was the right thing to do but they are looking for an excuse not to do it, while trying to have Jesus on their side. Don’t forget that these Pharisees, in the same verse also asked Him to tell them if it is the “right” thing to do, which means they were definitely asking for more than His opinion. The last time I checked, Jesus’ opinion is also His law. This was not the first or last time the Pharisees try to trap Jesus with a question and I believe soon after this event, the Sadducees had a question of their own too. In every instance, the answer Jesus gave was not only right but became the standard for the New Testament age.
Now, here is the bigger picture that we should be more concerned about. There is a reason Jesus asked them to look at the coin and say what image/inscription was on it. Jesus could have easily answered the tax question as a Yes or No but He needed them to understand why taxes should be paid to Caesar. Most importantly, Jesus wanted them to see the bigger picture by using this as a teaching moment, which was the spiritual comparison He made when He said “…and to God what is God’s.” Jesus was making a point that it is okay to do what is right or expedient because it is the law. But doing this or following the law of whatever government you are under is not the reason for our existence. It’s like saying “…man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” – Matthew 4:4. This simply means physical food is good for us but the spiritual food is way more important and best for us. Jesus even told His disciples in John 4:32-34 the kind of food He is more interested in eating.
In the same way, giving Caesar his coin as a tax payment is a “good” thing to do but giving ourselves as a sacrifice to God is the “best” thing to do. We have bigger things to worry about than taxes because our salvation is not based on how much taxes we pay. Jesus’ message was deeper than just paying taxes; it was more about giving your soul to the owner. Denarius, the currency of those days, had the image of Caesar (an ancient leader) just as we have our various country’s currencies today bearing the images of our public leaders.
The government makes and regulates currencies. When the Pharisees looked at the denarius (coin) they saw the image and inscription of Caesar. When we look within us, we should see the image and inscription (word) of God; and so should others (2 Corinthians 3:2-3; Acts 11:26). The image and inscription represent ownership. You can’t put the image of a North Korean leader on Canadian currency. You cannot put the image of the British Prime minister on a US Dollar. In the same manner, we cannot occupy our hearts with evil, which will end up displaying characteristics of the devil (John 8:44).
Now, for those who hate paying too much taxes like me, don’t think you are alone. Most people I know don’t mind paying taxes but they hate paying too much taxes. I just want to quickly say that government around the world have always been and will always be corrupt. The problem we face as a society is not if there is corruption in government but how deep and how big or widespread the corruption is. In the past, people will have to dig hard to find something “bad” to say about someone. These days, “evil” is so widely accepted as normal that people now have to dig harder to find something “good” to say – what a reverse. A big widespread corruption produces an unstable government, which usually leads to anger and frustration among people.
In my personal opinion, the tax cut that only favors a select few is a bad tax cut and described as a “trickle down” cuts. I made this comparison (as seen on the attached image) based on what we all can relate to when it comes to health and fitness. You can’t work on one part of your body and hope that the effect will trickle down to fully benefit the rest of your body. You may see a tiny misleading effect that is more of a mirage, and easily gets mistaken for reality. This false reality ends up producing results and that is not sustainable in the long term. It’s called trickle down economy for a reason.
Lastly, this giving of self to God that Jesus was more concerned about is not only for unbelievers. Those who are members of His kingdom are also required to give ourselves to God for the growth of the entire body of Christ. For those who are not yet members of His kingdom, here’s more on HOW TO DO THIS or click HERE.
Contributed by: Abraham Inetianbor