Keith Wishum: Giving to Caesar

Published 2:10 pm Saturday, June 30, 2018

Have you noticed that if you combine the letters in “the IRS,” you spell “theirs”? It has been said: only two things are certain in life — death and taxes. It has also been wisely said: of those two, only death doesn’t get worse every year.
We love to joke about paying taxes. And, I do my share of complaining about the complexity of the paperwork. It only took me two years to complete my 2017 return!
Paying taxes, however, is not a bad thing. It’s something Jesus teaches his followers to do. Hoping to lure him into speaking out against the corrupt, oppressive Roman government, someone once asked Jesus, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Pointing out whose image was imprinted on currency, Jesus replied, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:15ff).
Paying taxes is right. It’s also a bargain. For example, my two children received a “free” public education that cost about $10,000 per year each. I didn’t pay $20,000 in taxes per year while they were in school. And these days, I get to work in a campus ministry with bright college students whose future contributions to our community are being partially funded by tax dollars flowing.
Not only did my kids receive a quality education, but my wife’s salary as a teacher came from tax revenues. So do the salaries of several of our friends in education, and our friend the police officer, and our friend the fireman, and our friend who receives disability income, and the ones in the military. How could I begrudge paying my share of the funds that provide livelihood for so many of my friends?
When the house next to ours caught fire, firemen responded before I even knew there was a fire. They efficiently snuffed the blaze, keeping my family and property safe, but did not send me a bill. That service is provided by tax dollars.
Each spring, I play softball on fields funded by tax dollars. My family spends a wonderfully pleasant week in the mountains each June at beautiful Vogel State Park, a park built with government funds and maintained by tax funds. We drive there on nice roads paved with tax dollars. There isn’t a toll booth anywhere.
Taxes are inevitable. Our attitude about paying them is optional. Why not choose to pay more pleasantly by recognizing that paying taxes pleases God and provides excellent benefits?

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church, Americus.