“Then I’ll go to jail!” I stormed away from the table in a rage. Couldn’t my parents understand what I was saying? What the government was doing was wrong! How could I comply by giving them money from my hard-earned income?
When questioned about paying taxes to Caesar, Jesus had replied, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:18-21) Since Washington, Lincoln, and Grant were all dead, it was clear that this command did not apply to me as a U.S. citizen. For the government to demand that I hand over part of my salary to support all sorts of nefarious activities wasn’t just unconstitutional: it violated God’s written Word. And I would have none of it!
I’ll admit that my motivation had more to do with wanting to retain my pay than any desire to avoid funding sin. I’ve come around since my teen years and I have paid taxes ever since I got my first job… despite my concerns about what they might be funding. Why? Because God said to.
Perhaps one of the hardest commands Scripture gives us is that of 1 Peter 2:13, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution…” Such submission doesn’t come naturally to most of us. We want to see, do, and know for ourselves … even when that seeing, doing, and knowing might harm both ourselves and others. What do we do when we don’t understand the purpose for a rule or, worse yet, that rule is unjust? We break it.
Of course, this may not be our intent at first. After all, most of us want to be viewed as law abiding citizens, even if we don’t like the laws by which we must abide. So we look for wiggle room or try to find a loophole. Yes, the speed limit is 25, but police officers only stop drivers if they’re going 30 … so it must be okay. Of course the sign says “No Swimming”, but the city put that up to warn weak swimmers, not Olympic quality athletes like myself … no problem!
While these little “fudges” may not look like much to us, they are often a very accurate reflection of our attitude towards sin … an attitude which can make or break our efforts to share the Gospel message. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be taking a look at what the Bible says about submission and how our actions and attitudes influence the way others view our faith and, more importantly, our God. We’ll examine some common pitfalls and take a look at practical ways to avoid them. Meanwhile, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below!