I don’t imagine the good people at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs often receive complaints from customers who feel they should be paying more tax.
I freely admit I don’t like paying my taxes.
During my extensive research for this article I have not found anyone who enjoys passing on their hard-earned cash to the tax man.
We all slightly baulk at the idea of giving our money to either central or local government, when we don’t necessarily agree with all the ways they choose to spend it.
Of course we all feel a sense of righteous indignation when we hear of the super-rich not paying any tax at all.
Apparently, by various means of “creative accounting”, some people manage to avoid paying tax.
We resent this and think it’s wrong, but I do have a sneaking suspicion that if my income was, say £30 million and I could find a legal way of paying a bit less of it to the treasury, maybe I would try.
There may have been fewer “creative” ways of avoiding paying tax in the past, but nevertheless it has always been a hot issue.
Right back in Jesus’ day, he was asked whether it was right to pay taxes.
The land of Israel was occupied by the Romans back then, and they would not have had much patience with anyone who tried to get out of paying tax.
And the punishments for not paying your tax to the Romans would have been rather more brutal than anything HMRC might do to you today.
Jesus was asked this question by the religious leaders of the day – whom he more than once described as hypocrites.
They were trying to catch him out.
If he replied “of course you shouldn’t pay taxes to this corrupt and brutal regime” (which is what everyone thought) he would have been in deep trouble.
The religious leaders, who wanted Jesus dead, would simply go to the Romans, spill the beans, and the Romans would deal with Jesus.
Jesus’s reply was clever.
“Show me a coin”, he said. They did.
“Who’s head is on it?” “Caesar’s”, they replied.
“Well then”, said Jesus, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give to God what is God’s”.
Jesus was saying, in effect, “the Romans give you a lot of things you benefit from – law and order, roads, bridges, swimming pools, a money system, numerals, central heating – so if you want the benefit of these things, of course you should pay”.
But he was also saying “there are some things that money cannot buy – fresh air, friendship, health, peace of mind, loyalty, faithfulness, love. You owe God for these. What will you give to him?”
Patrick Woodward attends River of Life Church, in Broadwater.