Render Unto Caesar...

Who loves paying taxes? I am so proud of myself! I have already gathered together all our tax documents, and sent them to our accountant. We will soon be ready to file! I usually wait until the last minute, but this year, I felt it was particularly important to file early in light of the uncertainty of our government agencies. I actually don’t mind paying taxes. My family and I have have enjoyed clean drinking water, curbside trash service, police and fire protection as well as an excellent public school system. As a US citizen, I also feel an obligation to support our troops and veterans of the various branches of the military. I am not so keen paying members of congress and other politicians who have so poorly represented us, but they are part of the three branches of government that form our democracy.

Paying taxes is not only the law, it is an honorable thing to do. Avoiding the obligation of paying taxes by taking advantage of the system does not make one smarter than everyone else. Not only is it unpatriotic, it is immoral, especially when it further creates hardship for the less advantaged who have to make up for the shortfall. The Pharisees saw Jesus as a rebel who was trying to upset the establishment. Trying to entrap him, they questioned him about whether or not paying taxes to the oppressive Roman government was justifiable. Jesus, using a coin as an example with Caesar’s image and inscription, replied, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,” (Matt. 22:21, NIV). His answer left them speechless.

Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel, on the other hand, defied orders to bow down to the king on two separate occasions and that landed the three young men in a blazing furnace and Daniel in a lion’s den. While their actions may have been seen as disobedience to the law of the authorities of the time, the laws that they were trying to enforce were contrary to the authority of God. Daniel and his three friends chose to instead to submit to God’s authority. Despite the risk of paying for their choice with their lives, God spared them. Accordingly, the midwives and the mother of Moses risked prosecution by disobeying the order of Pharaoh, so that the life of the baby Moses could be preserved. In effect, Moses was a political refugee, but was ultimately spared because of the women’s prudent actions. Although these law breaking women were guilty of civil disobedience, the Bible describes them as women of faith.

As we have witnessed several examples of demonstrations and civil disobedience in recent weeks over the building of a pipeline through the Dakotas, or the refusal of a local governments and officials to enforce immigration laws of which they find morally wrong, where do we draw the line as Christians?  Is it wrong to demonstrate or defy government orders? Have you ever been forced personally by the government to perform an act which you found contrary to the authority of God? There might be laws of the land with which we disagree, but of which we must abide. Other laws, on extremely rare occasions, may be more difficult for us to follow, if our being required to act upon it, violates our submission to God’s authority. One may have to choose between keeping a job, or not, or even being subject to arrest. What would you do?