That question was asked of Jesus: “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” He said, “Show Me the tax money.” They gave Him the denarius, on which was a picture of Caesar. Then He asked, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He answered, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (see Matthew 22:17-21). And that has become the standard for what we owe the government.
We owe the payment of taxes for the necessary services government renders to us. We owe a law-abiding and honest type of personal life (see Romans 13:1-7). Especially, we owe government informed, active citizenship.
We do not owe the government the allegiance we owe God. To God, we owe our worship and our loyalty. We must remember that government exists only as long as God gives it the ability and the power.
When any civil government steps outside the mandate authorized by God Almighty, then that government does not have any further claim over its citizens. When the apostles came before the government of their day, they were commanded not to speak about Jesus. They told the authorities that they could not help speaking of the things they had seen and heard (see Acts 4:18-20). Even though they were threatened with jail, beatings and other reprisals, they continued to proclaim their faith to the people. The apostles obviously considered the government’s power to be at an end when it began to restrict their freedom to worship God and to proclaim their faith in Jesus.
In the United States, we believe that our government derives its powers from the consent of the governed. We believe that God has given certain inalienable rights, vested in humanity itself. The people give their support to the government so it can do such things as build roads, highways and harbors; train armies; establish courts of law and maintain currency; establish uniform standards; and do other things that individuals cannot do for themselves.
In our society, Caesar is all the people. When we are told to render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, that means we ourselves should be responsible for government. Therefore, we owe the obligation of serving in public office, of being informed citizens, of voting, and of being active in politics at all levels. That is part of the duty we render to Caesar.
We give God the spiritual allegiance that is His. We give Him our tithes, our offerings, our love, our worship and our testimony in praise. To the government, we give good citizenship, knowledge of the affairs of the day and taxes that are due. We also give the government our services as political figures, as statesmen, as public servants in every level of government.
Some might ask: “But what are rights under a dictatorship or a Communist government?” People have the same rights everywhere. Every man should have the right to his own personal life, his property, his freedom of movement and his freedom of conscience. But there are some governments that do not give those rights to the people.
That does not change the order that God established. Those under Communist domination must sometimes disobey the government. They must continue to speak and testify to their faith in God, even though this is very costly. Many of them go to prison. Many are tortured and beaten and deprived. When they get out of prison, they go right back to testifying and preaching again. We in America do not have any idea what those people have to go through in order to practice their faith in God.
Still, we must recognize that the apostle Paul was living under tyrannical Roman emperors when he wrote, in the book of Romans, that Christians are supposed to pay taxes to whom taxes are due, and that the civil government is not supposed to be a terror to those who do well, but to evildoers (see Romans 13:1-7). He also said Christians are supposed to pray for those in authority over them, so that they might live a quiet and godly life. This is so that the Word of God might go forth freely to the end that all should come to the knowledge of the truth (see I Timothy 2:1-4). This kind of praying even should be done for bad rulers and governments.