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Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How Do Jehovah's Witnesses View Paying Taxes?

How do Jehovah's Witnesses view paying taxes? Jehovah's Witnesses base all of their beliefs, their standards for conduct, and organizational procedures on the Bible. So when it comes to the issue of paying taxes,  Jehovah's Witnesses look to the Bible for the answer. The Bible shows that Christians are to pay taxes. But with taxes increasingly becoming burdensome, some may wonder, 'Must Christians really pay all taxes—including those some may consider unreasonable or unjust?'

Well, consider what Jesus told his disciples. He knew that his Jewish countrymen bitterly resented the taxes imposed by Rome. Regardless of this, Jesus urged: "Pay back Caesar's things to Caesar, but God's things to God." (Mark 12:17) Interestingly, Jesus advocated paying tax to the very regime that would shortly execute him.

Also, a few years later, Paul plainly stated this at Romans 13:7:

"Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." (New International Version)

Despite the fact that large sums of tax money were used to fund Rome's military and to support the immoral and excessive life-style of the Roman emperors, he still urged the paying of taxes. Why? The answer lies in the context of Paul's words. At Romans 13:1, he wrote: "Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God." When the nation of Israel had God-fearing rulers, it was easy to view supporting the nation financially as a civic and religious duty. But Christians also have a similar responsibility when the rulers were unbelieving idol worshipers because God had granted rulers the "authority" to rule.

Three Reasons For Paying Taxes

Because governments can do a great deal to maintain order, this allows Christians to carry on their various spiritual activities. (Matthew 24:14; Hebrews 10:24, 25) Paul said this when mentioning the superior governmental authority: "It is God's minister to you for your good." (Romans 13:4) Paul himself took advantage of the protection the Roman government offered. For example, when he found himself the victim of a mob, he was saved by Roman soldiers. Later he appealed to the Roman judicial system so that he could continue serving as a missionary. (Acts 22:22-29; 25:11, 12)

At Romans 13:1-6, Paul mentioned three reasons for paying taxes. First, he spoke about the "wrath" of the governments in punishing lawbreakers. Second, he explained that a godly individual's conscience would be adversely affected if he cheated on his taxes. Finally, he indicated that taxes are simply compensation for the services governments perform as "public servants."

True Christians Obey Tax Laws

It is clear that Paul's fellow Christians took his words seriously because Justin Martyr, the second-century Christian writer (about 110 to 165 C.E.), said that Christians paid their taxes "more readily than all men." True Christians who heed these words continue to do so clear down to today. (Matthew 5:41)

Christians are free to take advantage of any legal tax deductions if applicable. However, in keeping with Jesus' and Paul's urgings, true Christians do not engage in tax evasion or fraud. They pay their taxes and let the authorities take full responsibility for how they use the money.

The Bible promises that soon God’s Kingdom will be the only government over mankind. (Daniel 2:44) Justice will prevail for all under God's government—a government that will never burden people with unjust taxes. (Psalm 72:12, 13; Isaiah 9:7)

Additional Reading:

Should You Pay Your Taxes?
Must Christians really pay all taxes--including those some may consider unreasonable or unjust? (Jehovah's Witnesses Publication g03 12/8 pp. 10-11; Watchtower Online Library)

Growing Resentment Against Taxes?
Why are taxes so complicated--and so high? Are you obliged to pay them? (g03 12/8 pp. 3-4; Watchtower Online Library)

Taxes—Price of a "Civilized Society"?
Why are tax systems often so complex?

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