The Tax Collector
Tax collectors have been generally unpopular throughout history, even though on a personal level they can be some of the nicest people that you have ever met. Jesus Christ certainly didn't mind them - He chose a tax collector, Matthew/Levi, to be one of His apostles (Mark 2:13-15), and He was criticized by the Pharisees for being "a friend of tax collectors and sinners." (Luke 7:34)
The payment of taxes, in various forms, is found from very early times in The Bible -
Fact Finder: Did the apostles Paul and Peter both say that Christians were to pay civil taxes as required by law?
- Just after the Exodus, The Lord commanded Moses to institute a half-shekel tax upon the Israelites for support of the Levites at the Tent of Meeting (Exodus 30:11-16). Considering Who the "God of the Old Testament" actually was (see Rock Of Ages), it becomes clear why Jesus Christ was not opposed to payment of taxes.
- When the people began to set up human kings over themselves, they were required to pay civil taxes. Unlike God's tithes and offerings, which were always fair and low, the civil taxes increased over time until they were a tremendous burden on the people. Later, "tribute" (in their case, extortion) was also paid to the more powerful foreign kings that subjected them to threat of attack.
- King Solomon had one of the most magnificent, and extravagant, kingdoms in world history - at a very high cost to the people. When Solomon died, the people went to his son and successor, Rehoboam, to ask for tax relief. When the new king refused, and in fact declared that he would raise taxes even higher than his father, the people rebelled (2 Chronicles 10:1-17). The result was the division of the kingdom - the northern ten tribes, who later became the "Lost Ten Tribes" of Israel after their being conquered by The Assyrians, and the southern 2 tribes, with their capital at Jerusalem, from whom came the Jews of today after their being conquered by the Babylonians (see Why Babylon?).
- Jesus Christ paid the required taxes of His time, both religious and civil -
- "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's [see Ancient Empires - Rome], and to God what is God's." (Matthew 22:21)
- "After Jesus and His disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" "Yes, He does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes - from their own sons or from others?" "From others," Peter answered. "Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him. "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake [see The Sea Of Galilee] and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and Yours." (Matthew 17:24-27) (Note: An ancient Roman coin, showing the emperor Septimus Severus, is shown in the photograph above)
Romans 13:6-7, 1 Peter 2:13-14