10th October 2023
Read (Romans 13v6-7)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
The next time your pay slip arrives in your letter box, take a wee look at the amount of tax you have paid this year. It might surprise you just how much of your hard earned money leaves your account each month and makes it way to His Majesty's government. I've never met anyone who enjoys sending money to the taxman and yet as we consider Romans we must do business with Paul's high view of the authorities and the much hated taxation.
The Apostle states "because of this" we pay taxes. Because of what? Because the Lord has instituted the authorities who rule over us (v1), because we are not to resist the authorities (v2), because authorities should promote and defend good in society (v3), because we want to avoid God's righteous anger (v5a) and because we want to maintain a good conscience (v5b). For all of these reasons we are to pay our taxes.
Remarkably, Paul calls the authorities who collect our taxes "ministers of God" Have you ever referred to the taxman in this way? Government authorities aren't ministers in the sense of preaching the Word but in some manner they perform a God ordained function and whether they know it or not, they serve the Lord as they seek to rule justly.
In response to this extraordinary truth we are to live honourably as we await the return of Christ. We should never blindly follow the government's every wish. The Lord doesn't require us to sin just because the government says so. We can and we should protest sinful government decisions and lobby our elected representatives so that our viewpoint is heard in the corridors of power. With that said, we are to pay taxes to whom we owe taxes and revenue to whom we owe revenue (v7a). Tax avoidance is not a spiritual gift. Equally respect and honour is owed to our civil authorities (v6b) even if we didn't vote for them or don't agree with them.
I'm old enough to remember 1997 when then Prime Minister Tony Blair visited Connswater Shopping Centre in East Belfast. I was working in the NPO shop at the time and we were made aware that the Prime Minister's visit might see him making his way to the top of the centre and potentially our shop. Instead his visit lasted only minutes as he was confronted by an irate crowd at the entrance. The Prime Minister was booed and heckled and as the crowd pushed forward his security detail made the decision to call an end to the visit. I'm fairly certain one old man even put a clothes peg on his nose to show his disgust at Mr. Blair.
Was this the right response in light of this passage? I humbly suggest no. I am no fan of Tony Blair just as I'm no fan of Rishi Sunak but my attitude must be governed not by my temper but by the Word of God. Here is what he commands "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2v1-4)
Q66 What is the reason annexed to the fifth commandment? The reason annexed to the fifth commandment is, a promise of long life and prosperity (as far as it shall serve for God’s glory, and their own good) to all such as keep this commandment.