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Reflections on Romans 13:6-7 (Fri)

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Today’s passage.

13:6 For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants devoted to governing. 13:7 Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.

This returns to the idea of never owing anyone anything. Give others what they have coming. Never be in debt, either financially or relationally.

The question that comes to my mind from today’s passage involves the words, “owes” and “due”. Specifically who determines what is owed or what is due? Can I determine that? Because if I could I’d say that the government is owed far less than what they require of me!

The story of Jesus comes to mind when He was asked if it was right to pay taxes. Did He simply skirt the issue to shut them up with His clever answer, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and render to God what is God’s”? Or was He simply answering their question.

I may get hate mail for what I’m about to say because it’s going to make you uncomfortable.

Romans 13 and many parts of Scripture consistently say that we are to submit to whatever our authorities demand of us. We may only disobey if the command is a clear violation of a moral law, in which case we would still need to submit to whatever punishment the government decides it wants to enforce in response to our disobedience.

So the answer to my initial question of “who determines what is ‘due’?” seems to be simply this: the authority always does. Just like it’s wrong for me to make up my own laws, or wrong for me to refuse to submit to the government’s punishment, it’s wrong to withhold what the government says I owe. Bad news for those of us who’ve come to expect freedom.

It helps to know the authorities will one day answer to God for their leadership, but we need to remember that we will answer for how well we submitted to our authorities.

Just like husbands and wives. The husband is given responsibility to lead and is judged accordingly. The wife is judged on her submission to his leadership.

Just like parents and children. The parents are charged with raising their kids, knowing they will stand before God to give account for their parenting. The children are judged on how well they honored and obeyed their parents.

Just like Jesus being the head of the church. He is to lead, we are to submit.

I can’t find in scripture that the one under authority is ever allowed to usurp or disregard the authority of the one over him or her. That would include taxes as I see it.

If that’s true, then perhaps Jesus was actually saying: “Give Caesar whatever He demands of you and give God whatever He demands of you!” rather than giving them a slick, trick answer.

This view flies in the face of our American values of “liberty, rights, comfort, and freedom,” which is why I may get hate mail! We balk at things like taxes, regulations, and emminent domain. Yet if my thoughts and observations are correct then our role is to submit to whatever our authorities may require of us — even if they seem unreasonable or oppressive. Even if we’re condemned unjustly.

Even if it means taxes that are too high.

I’d welcome your thoughts on this matter. What am I missing?

1 Comment

  1. Martha Troxel

    July 10, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    We are allowed to object to something our government does or wants,but you are right that at some point we need to deal with it, as people say today!
    Good reminder that those in leadership will have to answer to God about how they did.A good reason to pray for our leaders in government and church as they have a big responsibility!
    I remember Pastor Bob talking Sunday about the time some folks wanted to know if they should pay taxes or not. Pastor Bob reminded us that Jesus said give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Then Pastor Bob said that money had the image of the caesar on it and people have the image of God in them. So taxes go to the government and ourselves go to God.

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