A Clear Conscience
“Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” (Romans 13:7 NLT)
I often have a bad attitude about income taxes. This year, I prepared the information, sent it off to the accountant, and then received a coupon of sorts which I was to mail to the I.R.S. with the additional taxes owed. I realized when reviewing the income tax return that I made a mistake. To correct the mistake would mean additional tax preparation fees and additional money owed to the government. In all honestly, I went back and forth for a couple days about correcting the information. I am not sure what that says about my character but since the amount was trivial it didn’t seem worth my effort, the efforts of our ministry bookkeeper, or the efforts of our already extremely busy accountant. THEN, during my personal devotions last week, I read Romans 13.
The passage begins by discussing the importance of submitting to governing authorities. During this season of political turbulence in America, the words were a great reminder that authority comes from God, and that those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. Romans 13:2 goes a step further in saying that those who rebel against authority are rebelling against what God instituted. Romans 13:4 (NLT) states, “The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you are doing wrong, of course, you should be afraid for they have the power to punish you.”
After reading the beginning of Romans 13, I felt an overwhelming sense of urgency to pray for the United States and South Africa (where I currently reside). I don’t believe in blind obedience. I don’t believe in following someone or an institution who doesn’t follow God, but I do believe God puts people in all types of authority (family, church, communities, politics), and, as a Christian, I am mandated by God to recognize authority, pray for those in authority and to be respectful and honoring of those in leadership.
As I continued my study in Romans, the following verse gave clear direction about my tax dilemma, “Pay your taxes, too…” (Romans 13:6 NLT). After talking with my husband, I sent the corrected information to the accountant, and I am currently waiting for our amended return and the adjusted tax preparation invoice.
Do I think that taxing people is just? It depends. In some cases, taxes are needed. In other cases, taxes are an over burden. In South Africa, there are personal income taxes and a 15% tax on everything that is purchased. In my opinion, in the U.S. taxation seems extreme as well. However, like it or not, I still need to pay my taxes.
Are you frustrated by income tax season? Is preparing your return an overwhelming experience? Are you cranky about the injustices that occur with taxation? I can relate. Yet, we need to be encouraged and reminded about the principles shared in Romans 13. One final thought, the Bible teaches us that when we respect those in authority that we will keep a clear conscience.