Summary: We are called to be good citizens, good neighbors and good examples... living decent lives for all to see.
Title: Good Debt (Not What You Think!)
Text: Romans 13:8-14
Thesis: We are called to be good citizens, good neighbors and good examples… living decent lives for all to see.
Debt has a number of categories… one is Government debt.
The Urban Dictionary defines debt simply as: “What America is in a lot of.” As of February of this year the United States owed over 17 trillion dollars in external debt in US dollars to international creditors. That amounts to $52,170 per capita in our country. That17 trillion dollars is 106% of our GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
It could be worse…we could be living in “Denial” which is this case is not a river in Egypt. Many European countries like the United Kingdom, which owes 406% of its GDP and Ireland, which owes 1,008.2% of its GDP are sinking fast in the murky waters of debt.
China on the other hand owes just 37.5% of its GDP.
As I looked through the list of eternal debt owed by all the countries in the world I noticed that most of the countries who receive humanitarian or military aid from the United States manage to keep their debt percentages well below their GDP. Egypt for example owes only 14% of its GDP and Israel and Pakistan are at 42% and 30% respectively. It is comforting to know that we are going into debt to assist those who are less indebted than are we. It is comforting like I feel comforted when someone asks me to give them money so they can gas up their late model SUV while I drive a 13 year dream machine… that means I dream it’s a 2014 Ram 3500 Laramie Mega Cab Dually with a 6.7 Cummins Diesel and a 6 speed, 850 Torque Output Allison Transmission.
Government debt is public debt but understand that public debt is owed by the American taxpayers. However our text today does not directly address the issue of taxation to pay for external government debt but it does speak to what may be understood as civic responsibility or debt.
One of the teachings in scripture is the responsibility of Christians to pay their taxes. As good citizens we pay our public debt of taxes.
I. Good Citizens: The Public Debt of Taxes (The State)
“Pay your taxes… pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.” Romans 13:6-7
(With regard to honoring and respecting tax collectors… they were a reviled lot in those days. Jesus was criticized for hanging with the likes of tax collectors and sinner. We may have similar feelings toward our county assessors.)
There are numerous amusing quips about taxes.
• "The difference between death and taxes is death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets." -- Will Rogers
• "The only thing that hurts more than paying an income tax is not having to pay an income tax." -- Thomas Dewar
• “I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.”-- Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
But of taxes, Paul wrote, “Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those in authority.” Romans 13:6-7
Years ago Leadership Magazine reported that 18% of Americans believe it is okay to cheat a little on their taxes since the government spends too much money anyway. (100% American by Daniel E. Weis (Poseidon Press, 1988), reporting in Good Housekeeping, 10/88) I doubt attitudes have changed much.
It must be true because at midnight on April 15, 1987 seven million American children suddenly disappeared. Prior to 1987 tax filers were merely asked to list the name of each dependent child. However in 1987 tax filers were required to name each dependent child and provide each child’s Social Security number. Suddenly, seven million dependent children who existed only as phantom exemptions on the previous year’s 1040 forms – vanished. (Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics (HarperCollins, 2005), p. 21)
The biblical admonition is to pay one’s taxes. Jesus commented in Matthew 22:17 and 21 that we are to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s.” In other words we are to pay our public taxes.
Unfortunately Jesus does not say that we do not have to pay taxes that we don’t want to pay or for things we do not agree with or benefit from.
I have been around long enough to have heard just about every excuse for avoiding paying taxes. I knew a man who refused to get a driver’s license or register his vehicles because he thought it was an unfair tax. However he did not mind using public roads. Others refuse to pay the portion of their taxes that go towards public education because they don’t have kids in school so why should they have to pay to educate someone else’s kids? John Green has an interesting response to those who dislike paying taxes for education: “Let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools even though I don’t presently have a child in school… I don’t like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people.”