Thursday, April 15, 2010

Oh, No! It's Tax Day!

Well, did you get your tax forms filed today? I think I did. I remember signing the forms, and I think I put it in the mailbox, but I'm not 100% sure. I'll probably need to call my tax preparer to double check.

Everybody has an opinion about paying taxes. Even in Jesus' day people had their opinions on taxes. Rome ruled the then known world and required all of their subjects to pay taxes. Roman citizens, however, were exempt. Many Jews of Jesus' day didn't feel they should pay taxes to Rome, because Rome was an occupying force in their land. God had given Israel the land and they shouldn't have to pay a foreign oppressor. Rome didn't share those beliefs and would often have soldiers stationed with the tax collectors to make sure people paid.

Corruption abounded as well in Jesus' day. Tax collectors made their wealth by collecting more tax than what was required. Zacchaeus may have hinted at this practice by indicating that he would pay back four times the amount if he had cheated anybody out of anything.

To pay or not to pay, that was the question of Jesus' day. And that was the question the Jewish leaders posed to Jesus in Matthew 22, "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar?"

You probably know how Jesus answered. He said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Jesus did not allow Himself to get caught up in the political hot button of the day. They wanted to trap Him, hoping to get Him hated either by His fellow Jews or by the Romans. Much to their dismay, Jesus' answer endeared Him both to the Romans and to the Jewish people.

The issue of taxes can create a lot of anxiety and even anger among people (believers included). Some feel we are taxed too much, while others feel the wealthy of our society need to be taxed even more. Jesus didn't speak to the issue of who was being taxed and how much they were being taxed. Certainly there would have been Jews who felt it was unfair that they had to pay taxes to support the luxuries of the Roman citizens who paid none. But Jesus refrains from getting caught up into such a debate. Instead He turns the people's attention to the eternal, and that's where I want us to focus on this tax day.

Jesus' final words are the real clincher in this passage. Unfortunately, they are also often the words that are forgotten. He said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." So what is God's?

Scripture says, "The earth is the LORD's and everything in it." God ultimately owns all of our material possessions. The car we drive, the house we live in, and even the retirement account we are building is not ours. We are simply stewards of those material goods. All we have is ultimately God's. But it's not just about the material goods that Jesus is referring to.

In Revelation 5:12-13 we read that the Lamb was worthy to receive "power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" And to the Lamb and to the One who sits on the throne there is due "praise and honor and glory and power!" That goes well beyond mere material goods. The LORD deserves all of our worship, our honor, our obedience, our possessions, and essentially ourselves.

Maybe you're one of those who wait to the last minute to file your taxes. As you go through all the numbers and analyze what you are giving to Uncle Sam, take some time to analyze what you are giving to God. And even if you filed weeks ago, take the time today to examine your heart and ask, "Am I giving to God what is God's?"

Matthew 22:21b "Then He said to them, 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

No comments:

Post a Comment