I suppose nothing rankles so much as giving your hard-earned money to a government whose policies you disagree with, who often use that money for things you disapprove of as a Christian. Guess what? We are not the first to feel that way, and our government doesn’t come close to the one that governed the people Jesus and the apostles plainly said to pay. Our government does not yet imprison us for our faith, nor does it throw us to the lions, crucify us, or burn us alive in an arena paid for by tax dollars.
Paul makes it crystal clear when he says, For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed…Rom 13:6,7. Some of those very people wound up paying for their own executions, so I doubt we have much excuse in not paying our taxes.
This is what we miss when we start all the complaining. In the very same passage Paul says, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God…Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience, vv 1,5.
You would think that God’s wrath would have been reserved for that government that persecuted His people, but no, in this case, His wrath is on any who disobey this instruction because He ordained that government. Not to obey that earthly authority is to disobey His heavenly authority. Paul even adds at the end of verse 7, [Pay] respect to whom respect is owed and honor to whom honor is owed. That does not mean only those who deserve that respect and honor as men, it means those who are a position of authority. That position deserves the respect and honor no matter who fills it, because God put him there.
Peter says much the same thing: Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good, 1 Pet 2:13,14. We obey “for the Lord’s sake.” So what would that make any civil disobedience on our part? A slap in the face of God, that’s what.
This is a lot more important than we like to think. Subjection is the mark of a Christian. Every one of us is subject to everyone else (Eph 5:21), and we all are in subjection in other areas of life. Peter says that is why our subjection to the government is so important. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor, vv15-17. When we act in any other way, when we disobey the laws of the land, when we cheat on our taxes, we are causing the world to laugh at the very notion of subjection as servants to God, invalidating our faith as surely as if we had stood up and denied the Lord in front of them.
Yes, it’s that time of year. Maybe instead of complaining, we should thank God that we have a government that, though it certainly isn’t honoring God, isn’t murdering His children. At least not yet.
…You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people, Acts 23:5.