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What Jesus Thinks of the 1040
by Tom Goodman
February 11, 2009

I got an audit notice in the mail last year.  It simply read, "Our records show that you still have some money left after paying your taxes.  How do you explain that?"

If you've started working on your 2008 taxes, you'll probably appreciate the truth in that old joke.

Two thousand years ago, men who liked neither Jesus nor taxes asked Jesus about taxes.  According to Matthew's report (22:15-22), they were trying to trap him into saying something that would get him in trouble.  "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" they asked.  Jesus replied with that now-famous answer, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

With that response, Jesus didn't simply explain what he thinks of your 1040.  He also established what our attitude should be to political involvement as a whole.

First, he told us to fulfill our obligations to our earthly citizenship.  The "Give to Caesar" principle includes a lot more than taxation.  As other Scripture passages show us, we're to honor the king, pray for those in authority, fulfill our obligations if we are agents of the state, and work for the welfare of the city.  In short, Christ-followers are not to withdraw from the world into our own little holy huddles.  Our nation, and especially our community, should be a better place because of our involvement in its culture and politics.

Second, he told us to fulfill our obligations to our heavenly citizenship.  Paul reminded us in Philippians 3:20 that "our citizenship is in heaven."  So, even as we "Give to Caesar," we are also to "Give to God."  No government should expect our ultimate allegiance, every government should expect our respectful critique, and any government that violates our conscience should expect our firm resistance.  The same apostle who told us to "submit to every authority" (1 Peter 2:13) also said, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29).  Though he was willing to give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar, he was not willing to give to Caesar what belonged to God.

This is a profound teaching.  It will help you invest yourself in political change and yet keep you from the lie that political change is the only, or even the most, important thing our world needs.

Join us this Sunday as we apply Christ's great principle to life!


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