Should We Pay Taxes?

Trick question.

Luke 20:19-26 (ESV)

The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people. So they watched him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch him in something he said, so as to deliver him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor. So they asked him, “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” But he perceived their craftiness, and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar's.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” And they were not able in the presence of the people to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent.

The judicial system is run by Rome. Roman justice is brutal. So they watched him and sent spies … that they might catch him in something he said …. So they asked him, “… Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?”

Remember, they aren’t just looking to discredit Jesus; they’re looking to destroy Him. If they can get Him so say something that can be construed as rebellious, then they have a charge they can use against Him. Rebellion is a capital crime under Roman law.

Of course, if Jesus really was a rebel, He’d be the kind of Messiah they’re expecting, and they’d have been on His side all along. But now they’re just trying to trap Him with cheap tricks.

The Roman taxes are extremely unpopular in Israel, partly because of the corrupt way they’re administered. The scribes and the chief priests figure that Jesus, as a popular personality, won’t be willing to say something unpopular. They hope He’ll slip up and say something against paying taxes, or at least say something they can twist.

But His clever comeback leaves them speechless.

They really don’t know the guy.

We live in a country that was pretty much started by a tax revolt just like the one the scribes and chief priests were hoping for. Yet here we are, with lots of people complaining about taxes. All is not well in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But just as it was under Roman rule, the problem isn’t really taxes. We have strayed from the great Christian principles our founding fathers held so dear. Meanwhile, our politics have become frighteningly polarized.

We need to pray regularly for revival in America. Only radical change can fix this. Ask God to bless our nation through His church.

It has to start here. Nothing else will do.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.