ON TAXES: WWJD?
What will Jesus do with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump?
In this electioneering season, my goal as a theologian has never been to endorse any candidate but to provide the Christian community with biblical reflections on strategic issues of public polity so that they can make God honoring decisions that would give them peace irrespective of the outcome of the elections. One of the issues at the forefront of this election is the issue of payment of taxes.
In this blog, I am not addressing whether Jesus would ask a Presidential candidate to show his or her tax returns to the public. By all means, they should show their tax returns when and where needed. What Jesus would say about making public our tax returns may not be black and white by looking at the Bible. But we can look at the Bible and discern more clearly how Jesus would address the issue of paying or not paying one’s fair share of taxes and that is what I intend to do in this blog.
Both Christians and non-Christians alike agree that payment of taxes are important and necessary for the running of our Governments and for the maintenance of public infrastructure and advancement of human progress in Science, Technology and Education. For us as Christians, paying our taxes is an act of obedience to the Lord.
In Matthew 22: 15 – 22, we are told that the Pharisees sent their disciples along with the Herodians to Jesus to ask about taxes. “Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” They said to Jesus. We read that Jesus made them to show him a coin and asked them ““Whose image is this? And whose inscription?” to which they replied “Caesar’s”.
In today’s election season, the question for Jesus would certainly have been different. Before we explore the likely question for this season, it is important to note that at the time Jesus lived on earth, taxes were fixed and often flat across classes of people. It was simple and predictable. But today, it is different. Taxes are neither fixed nor predictable. Hence, with across the board understanding that Jesus’ response “Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” is an injunction that Christians should pay taxes to the State, today’s question will be something like “Did Hillary really pay her fair share of taxes?” “Is it a sin that Donald Trump did not pay his fair share of taxes?
Confronted with these two critical questions, I believe that Jesus would have had a different response question for the Pharisees and Herodians and most likely a different concluding admonition. It is not unlikely that the scenario will be something like this:
Jesus to the Pharisees and Herodians - “Show me the document upon which taxes are required of citizens”
The Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus – “Here it is, the US Constitution” and they would give him the constitution.
Jesus to the Pharisees and Herodians - “Under this constitution, which agency is charged with the responsibility of determining how much taxes a citizen should pay?
The Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus - “The IRS- Internal Revenue Service”.
I believe that the concluding admonition from Jesus would be something like this: “Whatever the IRS says is due is your fair share of the taxes under your law. Give to IRS what is due to IRS and to God what is God’s” In other words, what the IRS says is your tax is what you are required to pay under the law and if the IRS says that your due tax is zero; that is legal too!
In the light of the above contextual understanding of Jesus' response to contemporary tax questions, what do you think Jesus would do with Hilary and Trump? Would He declare any of them guilty of tax evasion under the US law? Or would he say to each of them “If the IRS does not condemn you, I do not condemn you, Go and pay your due taxes”?
I leave it up to you and the Holy Spirit to discern the right answers. Irrespective of your answers, I encourage you to go out to vote. Your vote is another coin that Caesar has put in your hand. So, “give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”
Finally brothers and sisters, after you have voted, be ready to accept the outcome of the election as God’s will for the season. As we know to be true, nothing happens outside His sovereign will.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rev Joshua Amaezechi, an ordained Minister in the Christian Reformed Church of North America (CRCNA), is the President of the LEMA Institute. He works as the Lead Chaplain at the Kalamazoo County Jail, Michigan through the Forgotten Man Ministries.
The opinions and comments expressed in this blog are exclusively that of the author.
The LEMA Institute or its Board and faculty is not responsible for any aspects of the information supplied by the blogger.