In one of the best known statements by Jesus regarding our obligations to the government, He said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21).
The context of this statement was a question Jesus was asked whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar or not” (Matthew 22:17). “Caesar” was the head of the Roman Empire—the occupying power of the Holy Land in the days of the New Testament. Jesus correctly pointed out our dual obligations to the governing authorities and to God.
According to Romans 13:1-7, Christians must submit to the governing authorities because “there is no authority except that which God has established” (v 1). There are legitimate expenses of government for which we owe our share of taxes to pay for its support. A primary purpose of government is the protection of its citizens and the punishment of “wrongdoers” (v 4). This would include the service of the Police and the Military.
The Apostle Paul concludes the passage with this statement: “Give to everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor” (v 7).
Paul also added some spiritual obligations for Christians when he wrote to Timothy in one of his pastoral epistles. “I urge, then first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made to everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness”(1Timothy 2:1-2).
So to recap, our responsibilities start with prayer “for all those in authority.” The list also includes: honor and respect (for the position), obedience to the laws including the payment of “revenue (fees) and taxes.” The reason we “owe” our leaders these things is the recognition that all authorities have their position because of a Sovereign God who is the ultimate ruler of the universe.
Of all the things listed above, by far the most important one is prayer. I remember an evangelical leader sharing an experience he had with President Johnson. This minister was invited to a reception in the White House. As usual the President was standing at the door welcoming the guests. When it came time to shake hands and exchange a greeting, he simply said to the President, “I regularly pray for you.” Hearing that, President Johnson grasped him with both hands and profusely thanked him.
Here’s a thought: If we prayed more, we might have less to complain about.