Governments can create taxing times for the faithful

Voices of Religion

Posted: Friday, November 05, 2004

"Shall I refuse to pay my taxes?"

This question came from a friend who had been influenced by a group of people who refuse to pay their taxes to a government having policies that violate their moral and religious convictions.

Finding himself in agreement with them on several issues, he was about to take their advice and follow their example. Before taking this radical step, however, he decided to call and ask if I thought this was the right thing to do.

I advised against his intended unlawful act in spite of its basis being a claim to high moral ground. Let me tell you why.

My friend wasn't the first to face the question of whether or not to pay taxes to support what he saw as immoral and unjust laws.

The enemies of Jesus presented him with a similar dilemma in an effort to trap him between the laws of Rome and his responsibility to do right.

"Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" they asked.

"Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's," he replied.

On another occasion, he simply paid his taxes; paid them to the corrupt and violent Roman Empire the government that would later carry out his crucifixion, then persecute, jail and martyr those who followed his teachings.

Governments should be able to expect believers to live out their faith by participating in making their nation a better place.

Prayerless and disinterested citizens shouldn't be surprised when elected officials fail to deliver on their promises. In these cases the failure has been mutual.

But what if political leaders who oppose biblical principles come to power? What if laws are passed and programs instituted that make it tough to practice our beliefs? What if morals fall further and government acceptance of these sliding standards threatens future generations? What then?

Interestingly, it is under just such conditions that faith has often soared, stretched and spread.

The efforts of the ruthless Romans to destroy or corrupt Christianity failed, and during that dangerous time the church experienced its greatest growth.

Similar increases are being reported today in places where becoming a believer brings persecution, including imprisonment or even death.

It's important to remember that God has never been dependent on politicians or presidents or prime ministers or congress members or members of parliament or kings or secretary-generals or any other governing beings or bodies to fulfill his plan for his people and the world.

"The Lord reigns," Psalm 97:1.

One respected writer of more than a century ago, wrote of this statement: "Absolute power is safe in the hands of him who cannot make a mistake or act unrighteously."

An old hymn says, "God is still on the throne and he will remember his own. Though trials oppress us and burdens distress us he never will leave us alone."

So what are we worried about?

For the faithful, the future is as bright as the promises of God.

Roger Campbell is an author, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist from Waterford, Mich. He has written more than 20 books and has had articles published in most major Christian magazines.

He was a pastor for 22 years and has been a guest speaker in Alaska churches from Anchorage to Homer.

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