Behold, the Tax Man Cometh

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I’m declaring myself a sovereign state. In doing so I don’t have to give account to anything or anyone. The laws don’t apply to me. I don’t recognize any civil authority.

Sound familiar? All over North America there are groups of people who have done what I have just declared. It’s an action as ridiculous for them as it is for me. When we live in a country, or even visit a country, we are subject to the laws and authorities of that country. Even those with “diplomatic immunity” can be thrown out if the country where they are stationed decides that they are personas non grata.

In Matthew 17:24-27, an interesting conversation is recorded between Peter and Jesus. It was a tax question. The tax men asked Peter if Jesus paid the temple tax. Peter took the question to Jesus and the Lord answered it by first asking another question. The bottom line was: Do those who are under the kingship of someone other than the king of the land in which they are living, have to pay taxes?

Were not the followers of Jesus able to declare themselves a sovereign state because their kingdom was now not of this world and their King was no longer either a Jewish one or a Roman one?

Jesus answer was a definite “yes and no.” It isn’t often that we get such a response from the Lord. Jesus' reply confirmed that yes, those who belong to God’s kingdom are answerable to a higher authority than the laws and rulers of any earthly kingdom. But no, they can’t declare themselves free from the laws of those earthly kingdoms as long as those laws do not violate the laws of God.

But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours” (Matthew 17:27).

The Lord offended the authorities constantly—in matters where God’s authority came into conflict with theirs. Paying the temple tax was not one of those times. The lesson is pretty clear. If we belong to Christ, our country of citizenship is no longer this one, but while we live in this one we are subject to those laws that don’t conflict with God’s.

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