Hi, this is Pastor Ken and these are my thoughts on a Thursday…A Taxing Time
Next Tuesday is April 18th, and this year that’s Tax day, the day most Americans are required to file their federal income tax. No one I know of likes to pay their fair or unfair share as the case may be. I do know this much, if I worked for the IRS (and I would never work for the IRS) I would certainly be loath to tell anyone about my job. I can’t imagine what conversations for those poor souls are like this time of year.
Disliking paying taxes is as old a dilemma as taxes themselves. I don’t think there has ever been a time when people have truly felt as though their tax burden was what it should be. America’s financial advisor, Dave Ramsey has a solution for keeping taxes as low as they can be that I think is brilliant. He says that all the IRS agents should be required to be at everyone’s place of employment on paydays and cash paychecks for employees and then ask the employee to give back out of their cash-in-hand the amount needed for their taxes. I have to agree with him that people would begin to demand lower taxes if that were the case!
As I said, wishing we didn’t have to pay taxes and having a dislike for those who are charged with collecting them is an age old problem. In Matthew 22:15-22 a conversation where Jesus was asked this His opinion on the matter is recorded for us. In the New Living Translation, it says; 15 Then the Pharisees met together to plot how to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. 16 They sent some of their disciples, along with the supporters of Herod, to meet with him. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You teach the way of God truthfully. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. 17 Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 18 But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me? 19 Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, 20 he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” 22 His reply amazed them, and they went away.
It probably goes without saying that Jesus is the master at determining motive and answering questions perfectly. The Jewish leaders were trying in more than one way to outsmart Him and get Him arrested. The Chief Priests and Scribes didn’t approach Jesus themselves because their relationship with Him had already become contentious. I think they were trying to avoid suspicion by sending others in their place to ask their question. They didn’t send the Pharisees as so many times before, no this time they cunningly sent the Pharisee’s disciples, Pharisees-in-training so to speak, along with some of Herod’s supporters who would be sure to let Herod know of anything Jesus might have said in opposition of taxes or the government. Luke’s gospel tells us that they were sent as spies, meant to blend in with the rest of the multitudes following Jesus. He tells us that they pretended to be righteous people, but only for the purpose of getting Jesus arrested. They even tried using flattery, and prefaced their inquiry telling Jesus they knew He was an honest man who taught people to do what is right and that He treated every person the same as the next.
Finally when they thought the moment was right, they asked their question, one that may have been on many of our minds lately…“Is it right to pay taxes, or not?” If ever Jesus was asked a loaded question this was it. They knew that the people in the crowd hated paying taxes to their Roman oppressors. If Jesus said yes taxes should be paid, they figured His followers would melt away believing He had been exposed as a Roman supporter and a traitor to the Jews. If He said that taxes shouldn’t be paid, well then, Herod’s supporters would be sure to hurry back and report the insurrectionist talk to the governor. Either way, they were sure they had Jesus right where they wanted Him.
Jesus however, saw through the whole thing, called them out as the evil people they were and astonished the crowd. Asking whose picture was on the coin that was used to pay taxes was brilliant. Telling them to give the coin back to its rightful owner if requested, made perfect sense…even to people who didn’t like to pay their taxes. But Jesus finished bigger yet. He told them to give to God what is God’s when He requests it. Those evil men where scholars of the Law. They knew full well that Jesus was referencing the fact that we are created in the image of God. His likeness is on us, and He does request that we give our lives to Him. Why do we pay taxes? Because we don’t want to go to jail. Why don’t we give God what is God’s?
Jesus once said that we should not fear what other people can do to us, the worst they could do is kill our body but not our soul. He said that instead we should be concerned with what God wants from us because He is the one who can determine where our body and soul end up for eternity. (Matthew 10:28) His point was that we should be more than willing to give our lives to the One in whose image we are created.
You Know, it’s interesting, we can pay our taxes to our government and never give our lives to our God, but the flip side of that particular tax coin is not possible. We cannot wholeheartedly give our lives to God, and try to withhold from the government what is rightfully theirs. We are made in the image and likeness of God. God is the embodiment of integrity. He says of Himself that there is not even a shadow of turning with Him, not even a hint of anything anyone could claim lacks integrity. He says He is the absolute same, yesterday…today…and tomorrow. If we are going to look like Him then our integrity must remain intact as well. I get it…I don’t like paying taxes any more than the next guy. But if I really believe that the Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof then I have to trust that God can give back to me anything the government might ask for if He has need of me to have it.
No government will ever come within a country mile or the expanse of the universe for that matter of being able to give to us what God has. No matter how high they raise our taxes, government can never develop a social program that will offer forgiveness of sin, redemption, righteousness and reconciliation with God. It’s tax time, give the government some of those pictures of dead presidents you have, but far more importantly, give God all of you…after all you were created in His likeness.
So now, giving all of you to Him with a grateful heart for all He has given to you…Go Be Awesome!