Taxes, Stewardship, &
By PAUL DAMON
Jesus said to them, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17)
Paying taxes is one of the more difficult things that Christians struggle with. We often feel that our tax dollars are wasted, so there is a lot of frustration with having to pay them.
But why did Jesus say what He said in Mark 12:17? What did He mean when He said to give to Caesar? Give what? Give how much? How much is fair? And what do we do if we feel we are paying more than our fair share?
Furthermore, what did Jesus mean when He said to give to God what is God’s? Doesn’t God own it all? Then how do we interpret this passage?
A New Standard for Giving
I must admit that Mark 12:17 is a challenging passage that I don’t completely know how to understand. But I think the best interpretation is fairly straightforward: We are expected to pay our tax obligation. And, we are also expected to give to God what is His.
For me, it is this latter portion – the giving to God – that is more difficult to understand.
Our giving should be driven by our passionate love for God and others. We should in fact strive to give as much as we can – not based on some standard (tithing), but based on our being sold out to Him and the advancement of His Kingdom. In light of this, the new standard is “How much can I give?” not “What is the least I can give to meet the requirement?”
Three Attitude Adjusters for Tax Season
Here are three encouragements that might help lift your spirits as you prepare your taxes:
- One of the benefits of charitable giving is that it can help us reduce our tax obligation while funneling money to Kingdom causes. If we aren’t happy with the amount that we have to pay in taxes, we can often reduce that obligation by increasing our charitable giving.
- However, don’t give just for the tax benefit! Giving should be a response, in love, to God – a response to all He has done for us and because we love Him completely. Tax savings should be a small factor in determining our giving.
- Pay taxes with gratitude for the amazing freedom we have in this great country. Think about the many different places where we could live, and remember what a pure blessing and honor it is to be a United States citizen.
Blessed to Be a Blessing
In a time when the world has more total wealth than ever in history, we live in the richest country in the world – and many of us have been born into families and communities with significant personal wealth.
Why has God chosen to bless us in so many ways – including with such significant wealth? I love the saying that it’s “blessed to be a blessing.” God wants all of His human creation to be redeemed and in a personal relationship with Him. And, He has chosen to bestow overwhelming blessings on you and me so that we might be used in the incredible process of bringing all to Him.
Whether we give through taxes or charity, we have an obligation and an opportunity to be used by Him for blessing others and bringing them into relationship with the one true God!
Blessings to you in your life journey to be a good and faithful steward.
When I first read that passage, I thought, “Great, he is going to give us the ‘secret’ to being content.” From a human perspective, I expected to find some of the usual responses to this challenge of contentment:
- Look at all that God has done for you!
- Look at what you have and think of all those who have less than you.
- Focus on what you do have, not on what you don’t have.
While all of these responses can be helpful, they all rely on us – on controlling and monitoring our own attitudes. Now, attitude is important. But it is not enough.
Which brings us to the next verse: “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (v. 13).
What? That’s it?? No pithy philosophy? No trite saying that I can hang my hat on? No deep spiritual insight to blow me away?
But as I think about it, I realize that this is a deep spiritual insight that blows me away! It is only through the power of God that I can be content with my current reality.
As I stood there in my basement in a shallow pool of water, that is exactly what I subconsciously realized. I couldn’t will myself to feel content. I couldn’t make myself feel grateful for the mess I had. But I could pray and ask God to give me a spirit of contentment and gratefulness.
That is a powerful lesson for me to learn and practice the rest of my days on this earth. It is only thru the power of God that I can do anything. And without Him, I can do nothing!
God bless you in your journey to be a good and faithful steward.