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What does the Bible say about paying taxes?

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In Matthew 22:17–21, the Pharisees asked Jesus a question: "'Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?' But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, 'You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.' They brought Him a denarius, and He asked them, 'Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?' 'Caesar’s,' they replied. Then He said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.'" In full agreement, the apostle Paul taught, "This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor" (Romans 13:6–7).

It seems there is an endless amount of the types of taxes to which citizens and participants in the local and global economy are subjected. Taxes are unpopular, and sometimes the government agencies in charge of collecting those taxes are thought of with disgust, whether they are corrupt or not. This is nothing new. Tax collectors were not thought highly of in Bible times either (Matthew 11:19; 21:31–32; Luke 3:12–13).

As much as we hate taxes, as much as any tax system can be corrupt and unfair, as much as we believe there are far better things our money could go toward—the Bible commands, yes, commands us to pay our taxes. Romans 13:1–7 makes it clear that we are to submit ourselves to the government. The only instance in which we are allowed to disobey the government is when it tells us to do something the Bible forbids. The Bible does not forbid paying taxes. In fact, the Bible encourages us to pay taxes. Therefore, we must submit to God and His Word—and pay our taxes.

Generally speaking, taxes are intended to enable the beneficial running of society. Depending on one’s priorities, tax revenue is not always put to the best use. The most frequent objection to paying taxes is that the money is being misused by the government or even used for evil purposes by the government. That, however, is not our concern. When Jesus said, "Give to Caesar...," the Roman government was by no means a righteous government. When Paul instructed us to pay taxes, Nero, one of the most evil Roman emperors in history, was the head of the government. We are to pay our taxes even when the government is not God-honoring.

We are free to take every legal tax deduction available. We do not have to pay the maximum amount of taxes possible. If the government allows you a tax break, you are free to take it. If there is a legal way you can shelter some of your money from being taxed, you are free to shelter it. Illegal and/or dishonest methods of evading taxes must be rejected. Romans 13:2 reminds us, "Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves."

Christians know that everything we have ultimately belongs to God. We are stewards and are called upon to invest our money and other resources into things with eternal value. We are called upon to provide for our families (1 Timothy 5:8) and to give generously (2 Corinthians 9:6–8). It is also wise to save (Proverbs 6:6–8) and perfectly acceptable to spend money on ourselves and thank God for His good gifts (James 1:17; Colossians 3:17). Paying taxes is the duty of a citizen, and Christians are called to be good citizens. But Christians are ultimately citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). Reducing our tax burden in this life should have as its goal investing in God’s kingdom for eternity.

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What does the Bible say about paying taxes?
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This page last updated: January 4, 2022