Romans 13:6-7 (NIV)
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
I’m pretty sure this verse comes around on Income Tax Day each year…. While none of us really like paying taxes (and there are too many to count); taxes are quite necessary for the functioning of our society. And understanding the necessity of taxes to fund needs for the common good and welfare, probably none of resent taxation itself. Yet, I believe our disgruntlement and frustration stems from how our tax dollars are allocated or spent. My personal criticism is how I feel tax resources are wasted by our government. Nevertheless, let’s look at our verse in the surrounding context and similar passages with this theme in mind:
Romans 13:1-8 (NIV)
1 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. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 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. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. 6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. 8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Thus, we are to submit to the authorities over us. This has been a principle for the people of God since the time of judges and kings being appointed over the people of God … and different forms of government have been forged over the millennia of history:
Ecclesiastes 8:2-6 (NKJV)
2 I say, “Keep the king’s command for the sake of your oath to God. 3 Do not be hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand for an evil thing, for he does whatever pleases him.” 4 Where the word of the king is supreme; and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” 5 He who keeps his command will experience nothing harmful; and a wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment, 6 because for every matter there is a time and judgment, although the misery of man is great upon him.
Titus 3:1-3 (NIV)
1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. 3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.
Yet, we find that even kings and government authorities can abuse their roles and fail to fulfill their appointments by God:
Isaiah 10:1-4 (NASB)
Woe to those who enact evil statutes and to those who constantly record unjust decisions, 2 so as to deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of My people of their rights; so that widows may be their spoil and that they may plunder the orphans. 3 Now what will you do in the day of punishment, and in the devastation which will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help?
And where will you leave your glory or wealth? 4 Nothing remains but to crouch among the captives or fall among the slain. In spite of all this, His anger does not turn away and His hand is still stretched out.
And there can be conflict when we disagree with those authorities. Here is an example that illustrates that tension:
Acts 4:18-22 (NIV)
18 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.” 21 And when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way to punish them, because of the people, for all were praising God for what had happened.
So where does this leave us? What is the application?
1 Peter 2:11-17 (NKJV)
11 Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from sinful desires which war against the soul, 12 having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. 13 Therefore submit yourselves to every human authority for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 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. 15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 Live as free people, yet not using liberty as a cover-up for evil, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NIV)
1 I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
So, today, Father, I lift up and pray for all those in authority over us. I pray that they will seek You, O God, for wisdom and understanding … to make laws and regulations that will conform to Your will for all people … that honor and protect widows and orphans … that will not oppress the poor … that will preserve the sanctity of life You have given … that will honor Your Word in all truth. Protect and bless those in government who administrate your will for the peace and well-being of your people. Rebuke, correct, and disciple those authorities who do evil in your sight and do not uphold Your Word. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven through those You have appointed to govern over us. And, Father, in all things, may we conduct ourselves in a manner that honors and glorifies You and Your Name … that we might expose darkness and bring light and hope to those around us. In Your Name I pray. Amen.