“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Romans 13:1–2 (NKJV)
In these verses, the Apostle Paul describes to the Christians in Rome just how people and governing bodies are to coexist. People are to respect governing bodies by submitting to their authority, mainly because God has placed them there, and secondly by resisting governing authority, a person would bring judgment on themselves.
While there will always be a large variety of topics that the government and people do not agree upon, one of the greatest tensions between people and government, is taxes. For centuries, the government has collected taxes to pay for a variety of services. However, corrupt officials, misappropriated funds, and ineffective programs have created mistrust among people and a reluctance to honestly file their taxes or to even pay them at all.
Even in Jesus’ day, there was anxiety between the Roman government and the people regarding tax monies to be collected. The following Scripture records the Pharisees and Herodians approaching Jesus in an attempt to trick Him up by asking a tax question.
Matthew 22:17–21 says, “‘Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?’ But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, ‘Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said, ‘Caesar’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’”
We often quote Jesus when talking about taxes by repeating His answer, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” However, it is rare that we quote the full answer, “And to God the things that are God’s.”
According to the CSB Study Bible, “The denarius was a Roman silver coin that bore a portrait of Emperor Tiberius, a Latin superscription that said ‘Tiberius Caesar, son of the Divine Augustus,’ an image of a goddess, and superscripted titles of the Roman high priest.”
Jesus approved the payment of taxes to Rome. However, He said that coins ultimately belong to the one whose image it bears. So, if coins bearing Cesar’s image belong to him, give them to him.
Then what are we to give to God?
Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” As mankind bears the image of God, we belong to God. It is just like how the coin bearing Cesar’s image belonged to him. Jesus wanted His listeners to understand that it is not only important to give the government their due taxes but to also give God what is due to Him as well.
So, for me, two questions arise from this:
Am I giving all my taxes to the government?
Am I giving all of myself to God?