Our debt to Caesar
Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” He was responding to a question about the legality of paying taxes to Caesar and his answer shows that we must pay our taxes. Some people protest government activities that they consider evil or immoral by withholding the percentage of taxes that goes to support such actions. Jesus’ statement does not give Christians the option of doing this. We must pay all the taxes imposed on us; if Caesar misuses the tax money we provide in ways that are contrary to God’s will, he will answer to God for his actions.
Our obligation to Caesar goes beyond just paying taxes.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.
Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
We must not only pay taxes but we must obey all of the laws our government enacts. There is only one exception to this. When Peter and the other apostles were ordered by the Jewish council not to teach in the name of Jesus, they replied, “We must obey God rather than men.” We must disobey any law that would require us to disobey God but we must obey all other laws.
Christians have a responsibility that others do not.
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
1 Timothy 2:1-2
A similar command was given to God’s people in the Old Testament.
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Christians should vote for good candidates (if we can find any) but it is more important that we pray for all who are in office, whether they are good or not. God is in complete control of all that happens and he can use even wicked rulers to carry out his will.
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD;
he turns it wherever he will.
When we hear someone say we must render to Caesar what it Caesar’s we need to remember that one thing that belongs to Caesar is the prayers of God’s people. I haven’t always been faithful in paying this debt to Caesar. Have you?