For God and Country
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists the ordinance of God, and those that resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have the praise of the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
Father, we pray that You would not only give us insight and wisdom as we look into Your word today, but that You would enable us, by Your Spirit and by Your power, to apply these things, to do those things that perhaps are difficult for us in our natural flesh, Lord, and by our sin nature. But by You working in and through us by Your Spirit, we can do these things that You have called us to. Lord, that we would experience the abundant life, that we would know what is that good and perfect will, Your will, in our lives. And God, that people who we come in contact with in this world, that they would see You in our lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
Well as I said last week, some of the most easy to understand sections of Scripture are not always the easy ones to apply, and this passage of Scripture that we have here this morning before us is not very difficult to interpret. You don’t have to get out your Strong’s Greek/Hebrew Dictionary to really go through this section of Scripture to understand what is being said. It’s quite clear. There are two very simple principles, two primary principles that we see here in Romans chapter 13, verses 1 through 7. If you’re taking notes, you may want to jot these down, but they’re very clearly there in the text. The first principle is that the Christian follower, the Christ follower, must submit to governing authorities. The Christ follower must submit to governing authorities. And secondly, the Christ follower must support, and Paul says by taxes, must support governing authorities. So it’s very clear: Submit to governing authorities and support governing authorities. And because the text is so very clear, I’m quite certain that this is probably many of your favorites passage of the entire Bible, right? Submit to governing authorities and pay your taxes. That’s really what’s being said here in this section.
Paul makes it very clear, starting there in verse 1 of Romans chapter 13: “Let every soul be subject to governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Notice first there in verse 1 the scope of Paul’s exhortation, the scope of Paul’s exhortation. He says, “Let every soul be subject to governing authorities.” The scope is very clear, there’s no one that does not fall underneath this exhortation. There is no partiality, and there are no conditions. Now, of course, we may have a difficult time with that, but we have to recognize, as I’ve been saying over the last several weeks since we began this new section of Romans – Romans chapter 12 through 15, verse 7 – here in this section of Scripture, Paul is outlining very clear exhortations for how you and I, as Christians, are to conduct ourselves in the world. Romans chapter 1 through chapter 11 is very clear doctrine, this is what we are to believe, but those beliefs should affect our behavior. And so when we look at this section of Scripture we’re looking at the call to you and I as to how we are to live out the Christian faith. And living out the Christian faith is not so that we can go to heaven, but because God has saved us from death and hell, saved us to heaven one day, He desires that now we would enter into the experience of the abundant life. So the experience of the abundant life is walking in the things that are outlined here in this passage.
And you can’t get any more clear than what is being said here. Like I said just a moment ago, you don’t have to spend a lot of time trying to interpret what Paul is saying: “Let every soul be subject to governing authorities.” And then he gives us the reason why. He says, therefore “there is no authority except from God.” Human government is by divine decree and design. Human government is by divine decree and design. Paul makes it very, very clear there. While not every government or everything that government does fully reflects the nature of God, the institution of government is ordained by God. It’s very clear when we look at our own government or we look around the world and we see the governments of other nations, other people groups, that not everything that government does reflects the nature of God. A very good example of that is that just eleven days ago, in Syria, the Syrian government unleashed upon some of their citizens a chemical weapon attack. More than 1,400 people died; more than 400 children died. That is not at all a reflection of the character and nature of God. But we must recognize that the institution of government is something that God ordained.
The Bible makes very clear that there are three institutions that God ordained and designed. The first one is very clearly given there in the opening chapters of the Bible where God instituted marriage, and through marriage comes the institution of family. So the first institution ordained, decreed, designed by God is the institution of the family. Then from that we also see that God has the institution of His family or His people – the church. So there is the family, and then there is the church. But the third institution is that of civil government. God has ordained and designed and decreed that people would exist under a civil government framework. And because it is ordained by God, notice what Paul exhorts us to do there in verse 1: “There is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God,” therefore the exhortation is given at the beginning of the verse: “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.” Now that word “subject” there, it’s the Greek word hypotassō. It’s the word that is translated in Ephesians chapter 5 where it says that we’re to submit to one another in the fear of God. It is the idea of subjecting oneself under, to subordinate under, or to obey. And so Paul says let every soul be under the obedience of the authorities that govern them. Now Paul’s not the only one who said this. This is obviously, we believe the Scriptures are inspired by God, so not only the apostle Paul, but also the apostle Peter. If you’d like to turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter chapter 2. 1 Peter is right after the book of James, right after the book of Hebrews. 1 Peter 2, look at verse 13, 1 Peter 2, verse 13, there the apostle Peter writes this: “Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For,” notice this, verse 15, “For this is the will of God.” You know one of the most oft asked questions to many pastors is “What is God’s will for my life?” And there are certain sections of Scripture that explicitly lay out for us what God’s will is. And here we read: “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men – as free, yet not using [your] liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
Now this exhortation that Paul gives here in this section of Scripture, to submit ourselves to the governing authorities because they are designed and decreed by God, the very same exhortation that the apostle Peter gives in 1 Peter chapter 2, this may be hard for some within the church to submit themselves to. In fact there is a way in which we might wrongly assume that when Paul and Peter, inspired of the Holy Spirit, wrote these words that they were living under some great society and some form of utopian government where everything was just fine. And so we might begin to think, “Well Paul, that must have been easy for you to say. It’s very hard for us to apply because you don’t understand where we live or what we live under.” You see sometimes Christians don’t want to submit themselves to their governing authorities or to even pay their taxes because they say, “Well I’m not necessarily sure that I like my governing authorities. Nor do I like the way that I’m being governed. I don’t like the decisions that are being made.” And there are many Christians in our own nation today, here in the United State of America, who are uttering words like that. You see the evangelical Christian church, which we would be classified as an evangelical Christian church, is typically, relates more to a conservative view of politics in the world. And as a result, knowing that we are not necessarily being governed by a conservative president at this moment, nor living here in the state of California do we sit under a conservative state legislature at all; we may look at the decisions that our government is making at a state level, maybe at a local level, at a federal level and say, “I don’t like the decisions that they are making nor do I recognize that this person that is in leadership in this place is following righteous decrees, and so I don’t necessarily want to follow that.” We look around our own county, just this last week or a couple of weeks ago, our mayor here had to step down because of impropriety, and we say, “This man lacks integrity.” Here in our state legislature, just in this last month, we know that they’ve passed some laws, they’ve passed some things that we, as Christians, say, “That doesn’t fit with a biblical worldview at all.” And so we look at these things and we get concerned, when we look at the way that the government is dealing with the issues of homosexuality, dealing with issues of abortion, stem cell research, a myriad of other things. We look at these things and we say, “It doesn’t seem to fit with what we believe and how we are commanded to follow God.” So we have a hard time with those governing authorities.
But it’s important to remember and recognize both the cultural and the historical setting in which these words were written. When Paul wrote these words: submit yourselves to the governing authorities that exist there in your nation, understand that Paul was writing this when there was a man on the throne, if you will, a man who was four years into his fourteen year reign, named Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus – long name. But he just went by Nero. And if you know anything about the Roman Empire and you know anything about Nero, you know that this was not a good time in history as it related to the governing authorities under which Paul the apostle sat, under which Peter would say the very same words there in 1 Peter chapter 2. This same leader would be the one that, not a long time after Paul wrote these words, less than ten years after Paul wrote this that we have here, in A.D. 58 he wrote this, in A.D. 66 it was Nero who gave the decree that Paul would be beheaded for his faith and profession. And yet Paul says that we are to subject ourselves to the governing authorities because we, as the church, recognize that it is a God-ordained institution, and those that are in those positions are set there by God.
“Therefore,” verse 2, look at this, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Resistance to government is rebellion against God. Resistance to government is rebellion against God. Of course the first question that comes after we read something like that, because although Paul says this is truth and this is the way we are to live, our flesh says, “I don’t want to live like that!!” And so the first question that comes to many of our minds is: Is there ever a time where it is permitted to defy or resist government? And yes there is. There are some times that we find in the Scriptures where we can defy and resist our government. Let me give you one of them. When the government commands the Christian or the church to do what God has forbidden, we have the opportunity and the obligation to resist and to defy that government. Secondly, when a government commands us to do what God has forbidden or to not do what He has commanded us to do, we can resist and stand against that government.
There are two examples that come to mind in the Scriptures where we actually see this happening. The first comes in the book of Exodus, Exodus chapter 1. You may remember that at the time that the book of Exodus was written, or at the time that the story of the book of Exodus took place, the children of Israel, they were existing as slaves in the land of Egypt. And apparently they, as a people group, even though they were slaves in the land of Egypt, they were procreating much faster than the Egyptians were. And so Pharaoh and his governors began to be concerned that there was going to come a point in time when there were more Hebrews than there were Egyptians and they would have a very clear problem in their nation. So Pharaoh and his leadership came up with a plan, and in Exodus chapter 1, verse 16 we see that at Pharaoh’s decree was given to the midwives of the children of Israel. And he told them that any time a male child is born “you are to kill that male child.” Well look at what happens, Exodus chapter 1, verse 17, let me read it to you: “But the midwives feared God,” the midwives feared God, “and they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but [they] saved the male children alive.” They defied the governing authority of that day. Why? Because they had a moral obligation to God to not put these children to death. God is very clearly in the Scriptures about life, and therefore they said, “We will submit ourselves to God and not to the command of Pharaoh.”
Another time that we see this take place is in the New Testament, in the book of Acts. In Acts chapter 5 the ruling council of the nation of Israel, called the Sanhedrin, they had told the Christian church, they had told the apostles, “You are no longer allowed to preach in the name of Jesus.” And there in Acts chapter 5, verse 29 Peter, one of the leaders of the church at that time, he stood and he said to them, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
So if a government tells us to do what God has forbidden, or if a government tells us not to do what God has commanded, we always submit ourselves to God first and foremost. But as it relates to any other decree, Paul says here in Romans chapter 13 that we are to subject ourselves to governing authorities because there is no authority except from God and those authorities that exist are appointed by God, therefore if you resist them, you are resisting the ordinance of God. And so “those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Now it’s important to recognize that when Paul says this in Romans chapter 13, verse 2, that those who resist human government will bring judgment upon themselves, he is not necessarily talking about the judgment of God. He is speaking more clearly about the judgment of those governing authorities. You see if ever you determine that the government is calling you to do something that God has forbidden, or calling you to not do something that God has commanded, and you determine that you’re going to resist or defy that government, you need to understand that they have the authority and the jurisdiction to punish you for defying them. So when Paul says here those who resist invite this judgment, understand it is most likely the judgment of that governing authority that you’re inviting. If you determine that what the government is calling you to do is against God and you stand against them, you may very well reap the consequences of that government’s punishment upon you. You might, as the Bible describes, suffer for righteousness’ sake. You know as you read through the Old Testament, and even as you read through the Gospels, you find that there have been those, many, who have suffered for righteousness’ sake. Two come to my mind immediately – Jeremiah the prophet. Jeremiah the prophet was speaking and preaching to the nation of Judah in his day, about 2,500 years ago, he was calling them to account because of their sin. He was calling them to repent of their sin, and they, especially the leadership, did not like what he had to say. So at a certain point in his life Jeremiah found himself, because he was preaching righteousness, in prison. He found himself experiencing the punishment of the national entities of his day because he stood for righteousness.
Not just Jeremiah, but also John the Baptist. You remember the story of John the Baptist in the New Testament? He spoke out against the unrighteousness of the king, King Herod. King Herod was a wicked and unrighteous man. Although he called himself a Jew, although he seemed in some ways to follow the practices of Judaism, he was a wicked and immoral man. And John the Baptist spoke out against it, and as a result, John the Baptist ended up being punished by that king. He was placed in prison, and ultimately he was beheaded.
And when we see these things take place, when we see even in our day, people who stand up for the name of Christ, and they are judged by their government, and maybe even persecuted for righteousness’ sake, we need to remember the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 5, in the Sermon on the Mount. There in Matthew chapter 5, in verse 10 Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” They live after the ordinance of the kingdom of heaven, and they inherit that kingdom. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.” Those that resist the governing authorities that have been instituted by God may reap the consequences of the punishment of those governing authorities.
Paul, he continues, look at this, verse 3, Romans chapter 13, Romans 13, verse 3: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? [Then] do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he,” the governing authority, this is amazing, the governing authority “is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him that practices evil.” Governing authorities bear their rule to discourage evil and to promote good. At least that’s how God instituted the governing authorities. They are there to discourage evil and to promote good. At least that’s how God instituted the governing authorities. They are there to discourage evil and to promote good. Now we recognize that all the laws that we have in our land, in some way they are to promote some sort of worldview. Hopefully they are promoting that we walk in something that is good and that we turn away from that which is evil. We saw last week in Romans chapter 12 that we are to abhor what is evil, verse 9, and we are to cling to what is good. And in some way, human governments are supposed to be in place to discourage us from evil and promote good.
Now I shared with you some months ago that my parents, they blessed me with a nice little gift at the beginning of the year. My dad gave me his convertible little sports car. And there’s one problem with this little convertible sports car, when you tell it go by touching the accelerator it GOES!!! It goes quite nicely, actually. And when I’m driving that car around, I find sometimes that as I’m driving around, that I find that my hands are clenching the steering wheel a little bit more than maybe they clenched my old car steering wheel. And I find for some reason that occasionally my heart skips a beat or two, and normally it happens like this: I may, from time to time, just go a little bit over, just a little bit over the speed limit. And as I am, I can find that as I do, my hands seem to clench the steering wheel a little bit more, and my heart beats a little bit faster, and I’m more aware of my rearview mirror. [laughter] Why is that?! Well, there is a reason. What do we see here, verse 3? “For rulers are not a terror to good works.” If you’re doing what is against the law, then you should rightly be concerned, you should rightly be afraid that there is, here upon the earth, a minister of God for justice. That he is placed there by God to discourage wrong behavior and to promote right behavior. He is encouraging a certain set of morality. That’s why those laws and those who implement them and govern them are to be in place. That’s why God set them in that place. So the general principle here of verse 3 is very, very clear – do what is good!! That’s the general principle. Do what is good and you will have the praise of the governing authorities.
We know that Jesus, although He was condemned to die by human government, He did what was good. He suffered for righteousness’ sake. But you know even the Roman governor of Jesus’ day recognized that Jesus did good. In John chapter 18 and John chapter 19 three times the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, said of Jesus, “I find no crime in this Man. He’s guilty of nothing that He should be put to death.” So He did what was right. And yet He was put to death; not only Jesus, but also the apostle Paul. In Paul’s trials, and we’re going to be looking at this in the book of Acts when we’re done with the book of Romans. But in Acts chapter 23 and again in Acts chapter 25 the government over the apostle Paul, they said twice of the apostle Paul, “He’s done nothing worthy of death or chains.” They recognized that he walked in righteousness. They took note that he was doing what was right.
But Paul says something very awesome here in verse 4, he says that they are “God’s minister to you for good.” Governing authorities are God’s servants. Governing authorities are God’s servants. Now to that I think it’s important to recognize that a society faces the greatest difficulty, a society faces the greatest time of problem when their governing authorities forget – number one, that they’re servants. When the governing authorities forget that they are servants, a society experiences trouble. Secondly, when the governing authorities forget that they occupy an office ordained by God, a society faces difficulty. Thirdly, when the governing authorities forget that they are placed in service for our good and not for their own privilege, then a society faces difficulty and problem. Fourth, when the governing authorities forget that they have been placed there to serve and not be served, the society faces a problem. Mark chapter 10, verse 45 tells us that Jesus, the King of kings, He came not “to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” And when the governing authorities forget that they are there as servants, that they are there in a God-appointed position, that they are there not for their own privilege but for the service of those who they serve, when they forget that they are there and have been placed there to serve and not be served, then a society faces ruin and difficulty.
When the governing authorities forget these things, when they forget their proper place, at least in our nation we have the opportunity to replace them. Do you realize we live in a great situation – the great experiment? We have the opportunity to peacefully overthrow our government on a regular basis. And if we have a hard time with the way that we’re being governed or those who are governing, and we say that they are immoral or they lack integrity or they’re handing down laws that we don’t agree with, then we need to let our voice be heard. And we need to understand that if our nation seems to be going in a direction that is against the word of God, it is a representation of us, because we live in a representative democracy, and our leaders have been appointed by us. We’ve chosen them to be in that place, or by not speaking up, by not voting, we are allowing unrighteousness to continue. So if we’re concerned about our government, if we’re concerned about the way that we’re being governed, then it falls upon us to maybe do something about it. But it’s not by force. You see we, in the United States of America, we have power, but we don’t exert it by force. We have the opportunity to see those individuals removed from office. And that’s a good thing. We should never take that for granted.
You know one of the things that’s very clearly seen as an application of these verses here in Romans chapter 13, verses 1 through 5 especially, is that we need more good servants of God in service of public life. We need more Christians to stand up and to be on the School Board, to be on the City Council, to run for office at the local or state or federal level. We need more people who recognize the importance of serving God and serving others that would stand in the position of public service. And maybe that’s speaking to you this morning. Maybe God is actually touching your heart to step out into that sphere, and to bring the influence of the Scriptures into that place, to bring that recognition to the peers that you might have there, that the governing authorities are God’s servants.
But what service are they there for? Well, notice what he says here in verse 4: They are His ministers “to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister to avenge and execute wrath on him who practices evil.” They are not Gospel ministers. They are not spiritual leaders. They provide, however, a divine service. And the divine service that they provide is to execute justice, the very thing that you and I were commanded, in chapter 12, that we not do. Do you remember that? Look at Romans chapter 12. Look at verse 19, Romans 12:19, speaking to the church. We know that because he says, “Beloved.” “Beloved, do not” what? Say it loud. “Do not avenge yourselves, rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” We, the church, do not avenge ourselves. However, the governing authorities that exist, they are placed there by God to execute vengeance as God’s proxy here upon the earth. Yes, one day God will execute righteous judgment. Romans chapter 2, verse 5 tells us that there is a day of God’s wrath. That will come. But until then, God has instituted human government to execute justice upon those who practice evil. And they are to execute it swiftly and impartially and without pity against those who practice unrighteousness. And if an individual cannot do so justly, if they cannot rule justly and with a good conscience, then they ought not to bear the sword, they ought not to be in that position.
“Therefore,” verse 5, Paul says to the church, “you must” – an imperative. Emphatic!! You must subject yourself to them. Not only because of wrath. Not only because they can judge you if you don’t subject yourself. It’s not the only reason that you’re afraid of the government and that’s why you do it. He says “not only because of wrath, but also for conscience sake.” We are to submit ourselves to the governing authorities because we are doing it out of duty to God. We subject ourselves to them because we submit ourselves to Him, and we reverence and honor His authority. Therefore we do what He has called us to do in this area.
Well now we get to maybe the more difficult one. Not only do we submit to government, but we support government. Look at verse 6. “For because of this you also pay” what? Oh we love April 15th don’t we? It’s like the favorite day of the year, isn’t it? Maybe for Jim VanderSpek, he’s a CPA. I don’t know. But we love that time of year, when we have to pay our taxes. But it’s not just April 15th. We pay our taxes when we go to the gas pump; we pay our taxes whenever we go to the store and buy something. We pay our taxes for our property taxes. We pay taxes, taxes, taxes all the time. And people many times get frustrated and upset with paying taxes. And you know there have been a number of Christian ministries that have sought to show people how they can get out of their taxes. And you know there have been a number of Christian ministers who are serving time in federal prison for not paying their taxes. And you know the interesting thing is that when these guys stand up saying that we aren’t to pay our taxes, they point to all kinds of loopholes, and they try to point to the Scripture to say that we ought not pay our taxes, but they have no loophole in the Bible to support it, no loophole in the Bible to support it.
“Because of this,” Paul says, “you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing.” What thing? Governing society. “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” Taxes there are the general taxes you pay on whatever you take in. Customs are a sales tax. Fear is a reverence and a respect to those who occupy that office. Honor is honoring that person who is the federal head of that government, whoever it is. We are told here that we are to render to them what is their due because they are God’s ministers to execute that office. Now again, we could spend all kinds of time picking this apart and unpacking it, but the reality is it’s just very clear – PAY YOUR TAXES!! I know this is probably not going to be one of my top five messages. But pay your taxes. Taxation is scriptural. We may have a hard time with that, but it is.
I’ll give you a few examples: The Old Testament lists out the taxes that were placed upon the theocratic government of Israel, in the first five books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And there in those first five chapters of the Bible, we get an idea of what the taxation looked like for the nation of Israel that was not after a democracy, not following a monarchy, but had God as their governor, God as their ruler. And in Leviticus chapter 27, in verse 30, He first tells them that “you are to pay a tithe” – that means ten percent. Now a lot of times we think that tithe means given to the church. But if you look at the rule of the government of Israel during that day, that tithe was actually given, Numbers tells us, to the Levites. And although they were the priests of the nation, they had a larger function than just the religious services of the nation. They were essentially the judges, the magistrates, the leaders of the nation of Israel. The Levites were. So the tithe was essentially a tax to support that governing, both religious life and social life, of the nation of Israel. There was no such thing as separation of church and state in Israel. There was the nation. And the Levites were both religious and social in their work. And so there was a tithe.
Not only was there a tithe given to the Levites, there in Deuteronomy chapter 12 there was a second tithe. Now we’re up to twenty percent. Deuteronomy chapter 12 talks about a tithe that was given to support the nation’s religious days, their high holy days, their times of religious celebration. So ten percent of everything that you made went to the Levites for the leadership, both religiously and socially, but ten percent more went to pay for the religious days and the festivities of the nation.
Not only that, in Deuteronomy chapter 14, verse 28, a third tithe was called upon from the people. And it was to be given every three years. So every year was 3 1/3 percent. So now we’re up to 23 1/3% of everything that came in was to be given for the leadership of the nation, for the festivities of the nation, and that 3 1/3 was given for the needy and the poor of the nation. But it didn’t stop there. It wasn’t just the 20 percent and the 3 percent. Then on top of that, these people were primarily farmers, and every single year when they would harvest their land, they were to leave the corners of their land unharvested, and they were only able to make one pass through the land to harvest it, and whatever fell on the ground had to stay there. Why? Well we’re told there in Deuteronomy chapter 14, verse 28, that the corners of the land were to be left unharvested so that the poor and the stranger could come and reap of it. It was a state welfare program.
Not only was there the ten percent to the Levites, the ten percent for the national festivals, the three percent each year for the poor and the needy who couldn’t take care of themselves. There was the leaving unharvested the edges of the field for the poor who could take care of themselves. Then, get this, Exodus chapter 23 tells us that they had a national savings plan, a national savings plan. How so, you ask? Well, every seventh year they were to leave their land fallow, they were not allowed to work the land every seventh year. It was a sabbatical rest, a Sabbath year’s rest. And so for the six years leading up to the seventh year, they had to be saving for the seventh year. They were forced by God to save. Interesting.
Lastly, Exodus chapter 30 tells us that they were to give, every man 20 years or older, had to give a half shekel tax annually to the temple, to support the work of the temple. It was also a way of counting the nation. That’s how they would determine the population, was they would count all the money that was come in. So it was basically a census. And there was a poll tax attached to the census.
This is before the offerings, free-will offerings given to God. This was just the taxation to work for the theocratic government that God had set in place. And then God tell them in Deuteronomy, “Listen, someday you’re going to want and king, and when you want a king, you’re going to have more than just this tax.” And sure enough, when they had a king, their taxes increased!! They went up.
And so you have 23 1/3, plus leaving the corners of the field, plus leaving the Sabbath’s rest – leaving the land to rest every Sabbath year – plus the temple tax. Taxation is scriptural. Jesus paid the temple tax – Matthew chapter 17. Now, mind you, He had a very interesting way of getting money. Because there in Matthew chapter 17, you may remember the story, Peter, one of His disciples, is asked by a group of people by the temple in his local area, “Does your Master pay the temple tax?”
And Peter said, “Well yeah, of course He pays the temple tax.”
And Peter goes to Jesus later and says, “You do pay the temple tax, right?”
And Jesus says, “Well, you know, I’m the Son of God, I don’t necessarily have to, but I do. And so here, I want you to go down to the lake, go down to the Sea of Galilee, put in your hook in the water, when you pull up a fish you’re going to find money in its mouth, and you pay that for you and I.” Wow!! That’s some way to get some money for the tax!!
Not only that, in Matthew chapter 22, verse 15, you may remember the story. There was a group of people called the Herodians. They were supportive of the Roman government in their day. They came to Jesus and asked Jesus a question in Matthew 22, verse 15 they said, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” You see, not only did the nation of Israel, during the time that Paul wrote these words, not only did they pay the 23 1/3 percent, not only did they not harvest the edges of their land, and they gave the temple tax, but they also had to pay tribute and tax to Rome. They didn’t like this. And so the Herodians came and said, “Is it lawful to pay tax to Caesar?”
And Jesus said, “Give Me one of the coins.” And they bring Him a coin, and He says, “Who’s inscription is this?” They said it was Caesar’s. And so He says, “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, render unto God what is God’s.”
Now I suggest to you that had the nation of Israel rendered to God what was God’s due, it was very likely that they would not have had a Caesar to have to render to. But Jesus says, “Render to God what is God’s, render to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”
Listen, you may not like the government under which you live. I’d suggest to you that if that’s the case, then you might want to go live somewhere else and find out that we actually live under a pretty good form of government here in our nation. You may not like the laws and the plans that our government has enacted, but, if anything, we need to recognize that we have the voice to say something about that in our nation. But other than that, we need to recognize that God has called us, as members of His kingdom, to live in this kingdom, this world, in a way that we represent Him well. How do we do that? Well one of the things He says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore he who resists, resists the authority and ordinance of God.” Although these things may be difficult for us to do, we need to recognize that this is the path into the abundant life, the experience of that which God has called us to and desires for us. And by His grace and by His Spirit, we can do what these Scriptures call us to do.
Would you stand with me and pray.
Father, I thank You for Your word, even though it is challenging; like a sword, it’s sharp, it cuts deep, it divides between the thoughts and the intents of our hearts, revealing to us what things need to be changed, what things need to be made right. God, would You help us to apply these things this week. Lord, help us to live as ambassadors of Your kingdom in a world where we feel pressure, where we feel tension because we look around and we recognize the world in which we live is not Your kingdom. But we know there is coming a day, Jesus, when You’re going to return, and You will rule and reign with righteous judgment. So the unrighteousness that we see in our governments today, not just here but around the world, the unrighteousness that we observe, it should stir us, it stirs us to say, “Lord, come quickly.” We look forward to the day when You are the King of kings ruling and reigning here. Until that day comes, Lord, help us to walk in a way that brings grace and glory to Your name. We ask it in Your name. Amen.