I know I am touching on things that are hotly debated, and I don’t have the time to fully defend what I am saying, although I am glad to do so in private conversations or emails if you want to. However, I believe we could say that governments have the right to maintain armies, police forces, to take life in capital punishment for certain crimes—while fully recognizing that these powers can be abused and have been abused. Citizens have every right to protest these abuses and to try to correct them. Nevertheless, it is folly to try to eliminate the rightful uses of authority because some of them are abused. What we need to do is to correct the abuses and not eliminate the things Scripture ordains.
The second power the governments have from God to allow them to perform their function of protecting, securing, and providing various common services, is the power to collect taxes. Now we may not like the amount of taxes that our government collects, and there are many abuses, as we know. However, you should not object to the principle of taxation. Taxes are right, and governments have been taxing their citizens from time immemorial, and they will continue to. Paul makes it clear that the government has the right to collect taxes, and Christians should pay them.
The final position of the Christian is summed up in Verses 5 and 7. In Verse 5 we see the attitude we are to have:
You should obey the authorities, not simply because it is the safest, but because it is the right thing to do So submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. (Romans 13:5)
This has to do with our attitude about taxes and arrests and judicial systems, etc. As Paul says in verse 6, “It is right, too, for you to pay taxes for the civil authorities are appointed by God for the good purposes of public order and well-being.”
We don’t obey the law just because we are afraid of being caught. We are not to keep to the speed limit just because there is a police car in sight. We are not to pay our incomes taxes just because we know the government might catch us. That is a factor, and many more people are honest about their taxes because of it, but that should not to be the Christian’s reason for being honest in paying his taxes. The Christian’s reason is that it is the right thing to do before God. Your conscience should be clear. You should pay the taxes because that is what God says to do, and not what man says.
Did you hear about the man who wrote to the IRS and said, “A few years ago I cheated on my income taxes. My conscience has been bothering me, and I haven’t been able to sleep. So I enclosed a check for fifty dollars. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send you the rest.” lol. No, I am just kidding. However, the believer’s conscience demands that they keep the record clear for God’s sake, not for man’s sake. Verse 7 tells us what actual actions we are to follow:
Give everyone his legitimate due, whether it be rates, or taxes, or reverence, or respect! If you owe taxes, pay the taxes; if revenue, then then pay the revenue; if respect, then give them the respect; if honor, then demonstrate their honor (Romans 13:7)
Look, Paul is dealing with our response to what these demands of government are. Do you see that? We don’t have the right to withhold taxes just because the government doesn’t use them quite the way we think they should. Our Governments are made up of fallible men and women just like us, and we can’t demand that the government always handle everything perfectly. That’s why Paul wrote, “If you owe taxes, pay them.”
I think the point Paul is making is that we shouldn’t resent these powers of government. This is all set within the context of Paul’s word in Chapter 12, “Do not be conformed to this present age,” (Romans 12:2). Do not act like everybody else acts about taxes. The world grumbles, gripes, groans and complains about paying taxes. You have a right, of course, as does everyone, to protest injustice and to correct any abuse. I am not questioning that. However, you are called to a higher standard, so don’t grumble and complain about the taxes you have to pay.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome