“Death and Taxes” are often stated as the only certain things in life. This idiom is originally credited to the English author Daniel Defoe in his book, the Political History of the Devil. Later, Benjamin Franklin commented in a letter that the US constitution “has an appearance that promises permanency but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” As Christians, we know with certainty the Good News that death is only a transition as Jesus conquered it.
But what about taxes? The Bible covers taxes as well, but unfortunately for us, they are not conquered, they are owed! The following are references to taxes in the Bible that we can reflect on during this taxing time of year.
- Is it right to pay taxes? Matthew, Mark, and Luke all reference this question posed to Jesus by the Pharisees. The question was meant to trap Jesus as either a direct yes or no would have been used against Him. If Jesus answered yes, the Pharisees would claim that He was opposed to God, the one true King. If Jesus answered no, the Herodians would have him charged with rebellion and handed him over to King Herod. Jesus, as usual, sees through the trap and takes command of the situation by telling them to "Show me the coin used for paying the tax". When they do, Jesus points out that the inscription and face on the coin is that of the Roman ruler Caesar and tells them, “Give to Caesar with is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:15-22). In this exchange, we learn that we have dual citizenship—hat of the nation we live and that in the kingdom of heaven.
- Submitting to authorities – Romans 13:1-7 calls upon us to submit to governing authorities as “The authorities that exist have been established by God”. These authorities are referred to as God’s servants and our duty is to pay taxes. “Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes.”
- The oldest form of taxation dates back to 3000-2600 BC in ancient Egypt. A tax was paid to Pharaoh and those too poor or unable to pay were forced into labor. In Genesis 47: 23-27Joseph said to the people, “when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.”"You have saved our lives," they said. "May we find favor in the eyes of our Lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh." So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt—still in force today—that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh.
As dual citizens of Gods kingdom and of our nation, it’s our duty to pay taxes owed. This time of year we settle up with the government and either receive money back for overpayment of taxes that were made throughout the year or pay in case of an underpayment of taxes. Ideally, we should be at net zero – neither owing nor receiving large sums of money back. Basically, if you are receiving money back, (my mother would call it money from heaven) you have given the government an interest-free loan for the use of your overpayments. If you need to pay, you may also be responsible for additional interest on that payment.
If you are receiving a payment back on your taxes this year consider using it to pay off any existing debts first. Consumer debt is rising at alarming rates. Growth in non-mortgage-related debt (like credit card debt and auto loans) is growing at more than 7% annually and collectively, Americans owe more than 26% of their income on consumer debt, up from 22% in 2010. If your debt free – consider investing money into your retirement but above all else, be intentional in planning how that hard-earned income is stewarded.
Written by Financial Stewardship Volunteer Jon Kotrba.