If you owe the government any taxes for the previous year, the deadline for paying them is almost here. April 15 is a day many don’t think about but for those who need to make a payment, that date is well known.
The Rev. Steve Smith, Campus Pastor of Concordia University Wisconsin wrote the following in the Winter/Spring 2015 issue of the Concordian (the school’s magazine):
“Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (Romans 13:7).
It was Benjamin Franklin who said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Since then, many variations of that pithy phrase have arisen, among them the humorous quip by Will Rogers who said, “The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”
It’s interesting that taxes, respect, and honor are parallel in the same verse (above) when Paul is addressing the Romans about government. Taxes are sometimes grudgingly given—because you have to—and respect is not always given because it’s earned—sometimes it’s demanded, with limited success. But what about honor—how is honor given or received? Who and how do we honor?
If left to choose who we honor totally on our own, who would we honor? We would get it right sometimes—many times those who are brave in the line of duty or sacrifice or suffer for the sake of others draw our honor, for example, the recent honor flights of WW II veterans and honor for service men and women in general. But other times, what is lauded or honored in society is not godly; think awards given in the entertainment industry.
So God calls us to honor. Not only in the passage above, but in any number of places—to honor Him, to honor authority (the 4th Commandment) starting with parents. It seems not to be optional any more than taxes are optional. But as we try to honor in appropriate and godly ways, we need His guidance.
Franklin and the other revolutionaries were willing to put their lives on the line in the cause of injustice and taxes—it was a matter of honor. The Declaration of Independence ends with the pledge of “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” For them, taxes could have been the death of them, literally!
For Jesus, the debt of sin and what was owed couldn’t be paid with anything other than His life. What was due to Him, honor, and what he took upon Himself, suffering and death, were two very different things. In a nod to the Will Rogers’ quote, the difference between death and taxes is that every time God’s people meet, death doesn’t get worse, but less powerful in the certainty of Jesus’ triumph over it! Taxes seem certain and death is too—but the latter is taken away in Jesus. And that is most certainly true! So, all honor where honor is due—to our Savior, Jesus.
Giving honor, paying taxes–there is a relationship between the two and I’ll be working hard on April 15 to make sure my attitude reflects the proper honor my Heavenly Father deserves as He has wonderfully provided for me. I will also strive to honor our government with the respect to due them (they are God’s authority here on earth). How about you?