Many of us are frustrated or angry about the amount of money that our local, regional, or national governments demand in taxes. Given the exhaustive examples of how that tax money is wasted badly by the government or given away to others who are not working or paying taxes it is understandable why we would feel this way.
Do you know that Yeshua faced something similar during His earthly ministry? Let’s watch Jesus’ response when confronted by others to pay a tax (to the temple, not Caesar) from which He is actually exempt.
24When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” 25He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” 26When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. 27“However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”
My first observation is that it appears the collectors of the temple tax wasted no time in coming to find new visitors and ask them to pay the tax. There is no record here of a welcome or greeting of any kind but rather the focus is clearly on collecting their money. It seems those who collect other people’s money to spend as they see fit (e.g. tax collectors) have not changed much in thousands of years. Human nature is still human nature.
At this point it is worth noting that the temple tax was deemed a measure of atonement for sin. As Jesus was free from sin, He could have rightly refused to pay it. Additionally, Jesus makes the point that God does not tax Himself anymore than a King taxes himself and thus Jesus would again be exempt. However, many would not understand or accept Jesus correct explanation of why He was exempt. It would cause them to stumble.
Similarly, we can sometimes make an argument that some of the taxes should not apply to us, or those who take in income in cash may rationalize that the government will waste it anyway and so they decide not to report their cash income. This is a typical human response for someone who is focused on what may be best for them or is just angry with the government waste.
However, Jesus was aware that refusing to pay the temple tax would stumble some and discourage them from following Him. The greater purpose directed Him to pay the tax even though He was exempt. Jesus was focused on a bigger picture than just the incremental tax payment.
How might this apply to us today? If we submit to Jesus, scripture commands us to proclaim Him publicly. If we proclaim Him publicly, but then give the appearance that we also break tax laws or worse, actually break tax laws… it could not only reflect badly on us personally, but on Jesus Christ whom we publicly represent. We may stumble people as they struggle to see what it means to live for Jesus Christ.
It is fine to be accurate in calculating tax payments and avoid paying the government too much. It may even be noble or helpful to actively campaign to lower the tax burden as it would help many. However, we should avoid even the appearance of wrong doing in how we manage our finances in general, and our taxes specifically. Thus, we should pay what we owe by law.
When we decide whether or not to do something, each of us should take time to reflect… “Am I only considering how this affects me? or am I also considering how it may affect or stumble other believers or those who may be watching and deciding if following Jesus really does lead people to be different from others?”
Remember that all you have belongs to God. Manage your money God’s way. Visit GrowGodsMoney.org .