April 15, which is colloquially referred to as “Tax Day” in the United States of America, is the official deadline by which each legal resident and citizen must file their tax records with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agency of the U.S. government. Some would need to pay the government the taxes they owe, while others would receive a return for taxes, that they have overpaid, to the government, over the course of the year. Either way, it is by April 15 annually that the tax records must be filed.
The apostle Mark records in chapter 12 verses 13 to 17, an interesting incident that occurred during the time of Jesus. Certain Pharisees and Herodians (both Jewish sects) sought to trap Jesus, in his words, and starting out with flatteries, question him, asking “Is is lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” They added, “Shall we give, or shall we not give?” In today’s context, this could be interpreted as “Should we pay taxes to the ruling government or not?” or in other words it could also be interpreted as “Is is okay to cheat on our taxes by not giving what we owe or should we give and not cheat?”
Jesus, knew of their hypocrisy, that if he answered affirmatively, they would brand him to be a traitor to his (Jewish) people, as they did of tax collectors (whom they branded as publicans at par or even lesser in status than sinners) and if he answered negatively, then they would brand him to be a rebel who goes against the Roman government. Jesus questioned, why do you attempt to tempt me and asked his questioners to bring him a penny (a Roman coin) and they brought it to him. He asked “Whose is the image and the superscription?” on the coin to which they replied, “Caesar.” Jesus wisely replied, if the coin belongs to Caesar, then render it to Caesar and whatever belongs to God, that render to God.
In other words, Jesus was saying that “If you owe the government what belongs to the government, then pay your dues.” To falsify tax deductions with the goal of maximizing returns is cheating on taxes. But did you notice, Jesus did not limit his response to solely answering the question about taxes. He took it one step further and spoke about what was due to God (such as our tithes, our time, our talents, etc.), render to God. While some may think of Jesus’ response as a way to separate State (Taxes) and Church (Tithes, etc.), closer scrutiny actually reveals that Jesus was not divisive, but instead accommodative, for he brings matters of the State and matters of the Church together, under the same context. Just as it is wrong to cheat on our taxes, it is equally, if not more seriously wrong, to cheat on our tithes, time and talents. While it is possible for one who cheats on their taxes to get away with it and not face an audit, one can be sure that one can never get away from God the auditor, and will face an audit during which time, he/she must be able to answer the question – Should we give or should we not give?
Points to ponder:
Let us as children of God not cheat on our taxes, AND not cheat on our tithes, time or talents. Let us render our tax to whom it is due and let us render our tithes to God, to whom it is due. To give is an expression of loving and if you love God, you will give just as God who loved the world so much that he GAVE his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Before Jesus gave his life for all of mankind, including you and me, I thank God that he did not ask of his Father, “Should I give or should I not give?”
Mark 12:13-17 (KJV)
13 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words.
14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not?
15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it.
16 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s.
17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.