by Pastor Art Kohl

The Bible Speaks On Taxation (Tribute)

1. Jesus paid taxes.

Matthew 17:24-27, “And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.”

Peter answered “Yes” to the tax collectors who asked him if Jesus paid taxes. This then becomes the example and model of all who believe in Him.

Jesus Himself was a King which would have exempted Peter, one of His children, from paying taxes. However Jesus did not use that defense but was rather interested in not offending those who collected for the government. Through a miracle Jesus came up with the money to not only pay His taxes but Peter’s also. Neither Jesus nor Peter tried to avoid paying taxes.

2. Jesus taught us to pay taxes.

Mark 12:13-17, “And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.”

Not only did Jesus and His disciples pay their taxes, He taught clearly that everyone should, “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars.” Caesar was the Roman Emperor and the ruler of the known world at the time. Rome was at the pinnacle of its power and Jesus was living under and subjected to their tribute. He stressed that whatever belonged to Caesar should be given to Caesar.

This story is repeated in Matthew 22:17-22 and Luke 20:22-25. Strangely, Jesus was falsely accused of the opposite at His mock trial before His crucifixion. Luke 23:2 says, “And they began to accuse him, saying, We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that he himself is Christ a King.” This was a false accusation.

3. Jesus’ mother and her husband paid taxes.

Luke 2:1-5, “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.”

Joseph and Mary were God fearing people. Joseph is described in Matthew 1:19 as “a just man.” To pay his taxes he had to travel all of the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, about 70 miles, with a nine month pregnant wife. They probably traveled on foot and donkey. Yet that was the law and he obeyed it although greatly inconvenienced.

4. The Apostle Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost taught us to pay taxes.

Romans 13:1-7, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”

We are to “pay...tribute” so that the government can keep law and order by punishing evildoers and praising those that do good.

The word tribute means, “load, tax, toll, assessment.” (Greek—“phoros”)
The word custom means “a levy.” (Greek—“telos”)
The word honour means “money, price.” (Greek—“time”)

5. God’s example of taxation is flat, fair and equal.

God’s work is to be supported by a divine tax on His people called the tithe. The word tithe means “a tenth,” thus 10%. Everyone of all ages and financial conditions are to give 10 percent to the Lord. This is a divine flat tax that is equal and fair to all.

Jesus even commended His enemies for their tithing. In Matthew 23:23 He stated, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”

The tithe was never to be considered the personal possession of ours, but the Lord’s. Leviticus 27:30,32, “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the LORD’S: it is holy unto the LORD. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, the tenth shall be holy unto the LORD.”

The tithes were to be “taken” from the people (Numbers 18:26), or paid by the people (Hebrew 7:9). The New Testament word “tithe” comes from the Greek word dekate—a tenth.

In the Old Testament, while under the law, the tithes were taken from the eleven tribes of Israel to support a twelfth tribe, called Levi, so they could attend unto the Lord’s work and to the people without distraction.

Today, ministers and churches are supported by the tithes and offerings of God’s people as they bring them to the churches on the first day of the week, (I Corinthians 16:1-2).

6. Equity means equalness.

The word equity in Scripture means “eveness, staightness, equality.” On the other hand iniquity means “injustice, wrongfulness.” Certainly the Scriptures speak highly of equity but condemn iniquity.

God’s judgment is with equity. Psalms 98:9, “Before the LORD; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.”

A king should establish equity. Psalms 99:4, “The king’s strength also loveth judgment; thou dost establish equity, thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob.”

One of the reasons the book of Proverbs was written is so we can study it diligently to insure equity. Proverbs 1:1-3, “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;” Proverbs 2:9, “Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.”

It is wrong to punish just people or to persecute a leader who is striving for equity. Proverbs 17:26, “Also to punish the just is not good, nor to strike princes for equity.” It is wrong to oppress the poor. Deuteronomy 24:14, “Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates:” Zechariah 7:10, “And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.” It is equally wrong to punish the rich for their accomplishments. That would be inequity also. Over 80% of the millionaires in our country today got there by hard work. It is inequity to punish their achievement by taxing them more than others. All inequity is iniquity! (See Proverbs 17:26.)

Consider carefully this pronouncement by the Lord about the importance of equity:

Micah 3:9-12, “Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us. Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.”

In one of the darkest days of Israel’s history, Isaiah gives us this insight into government, Isaiah 59:14, “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.”

7. Tax exemption of religious work has Scriptural foundation.

The founders of our country were often Bible readers. It was by searching the Scriptures that they decided Caesar should not tax God. Caesar should only take what is Caesar’s and God should get everything that is God’s. What is God’s should only be rendered unto Him.

Artaxerxes, king of Persia wisely made such a decree in his days (457 B.C.) about the Lord’s workers. In Ezra 7:24 it says, “Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them.”

Wise government officials realize that immorality cost the government and society a lot of money: alcohol, tobacco, drugs, crime, crime fighters, policemen, FBI, CIA, judges, prisons, prison administrators, gambling, divorce, stealing, pornography, etc. A moral society with strong families and churches leads to a strong moral society that does not have to pay the price of sin. Therefore religion already makes a financial contribution to the country in money saved by producing godly people and not criminals. It is wise to keep churches tax exempt and let them go about freely the work of the Lord in the community. It benefits all of us morally, socially and financially.

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