Why We Must Pay Our Taxes

By J.D. Walt

Prayer of Consecration

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body as a holy and living sacrifice to you.

Jesus, We belong to you.

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.

 Romans 13:1–3 (NIV)


Consider This

We read Romans 13  with its admonition to be subject to the government and our thoughts run to names like Bush and Obama, or Trump and Biden. And we scratch our heads. Let me share with you the real head-scratcher of today’s text:


The name alone evokes terror and horror. There are corrupt leaders and then there are wicked leaders. Nero was undoubtedly both. Nero is the one who would blame the Christians for the burning of Rome and subject them to persecutions perhaps unrivaled in all of history. This is the one who would nail Christians to crosses, cover them in tar, and then light them on fire to illuminate his gardens at night. Nero is reportedly the emperor who crucified the apostle Peter. 

Let’s be clear though. At the time of this letter things had not yet progressed to the levels of evil they ultimately would. Something tells me Paul foresaw it and wanted to avoid it so he was taking a more measured approach here. 

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.

Paul is not trying to set up a theology or philosophy of church and state here. Romans chapter 13 is among the most perilous texts in the Bible because of the ways it is prone to abusive misinterpretation (e.g., see the divine right of kings).

The most critical thing to point out about what Paul says here is this: We are not being admonished to “obey” the government but to be “subject to the governing authorities.” We must obey Jesus Christ alone. Submission and obedience are two different things. 

As we read further, we will discover this is about taxes. Paul is telling the Christians they must pay their taxes. Like Jesus, Paul is saying render to Caesar what is Caesar’s (which are the taxes owed) and render to God what is God’s—which is not everything else—but everything to begin with. We pay taxes not because the government says we must pay taxes but because Jesus says we must pay taxes. And Jesus says we must pay taxes because, as Paul writes, “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” 

This is the beginning of what it means to be subject to governing authorities. So, does this mean we have to be subject to unjust and ungodly laws? No, it does not; however, should we choose to disobey such laws we must be subject to the penalties and punishments imposed by the government (e.g., see Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and a million martyrs in their wake).

To say, “Jesus is Lord,” explicitly implies Caesar is not Lord. Now, just because Caesar is not Lord, does not mean Caesar does not have a significant role and responsibility. God has given Caesar, and any other government for that matter, whatever power and authority it holds. These authorities are not merely subject to God, but they must obey God and they disobey at their peril—for they will answer to God. This is not our concern. Our concern is that we, too, will answer to God. 

In closing, I repeat: Romans 13 is not meant to be a treatise on church-state relations. Paul is not going there. I’m not either. I’ll say more tomorrow and the next day. You already know this whole thing is a minefield. Let’s not blow ourselves up, okay? Let’s just pay our taxes and keep the peace. We have a much larger job to do than any government can conceive of. We are sowing a kingdom!



Abba Father! We understand the need for government and even that it is instituted by God and yet we struggle mightily with bad government. We struggle profoundly to submit to bad and especially wicked government. And yet we confess that what we see as bad government bears no comparison to what those first Christians endured. We begin with this: Jesus is Lord, not the government nor the governors. In Jesus’s name, we will submit to them, by the power of the Holy Spirit. We trust you Father, we need wisdom, counsel, restraint, and supernatural guidance. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.