Rom 13:5-7 “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.”
Paul began this thirteenth chapter with instruction to obey the civil law. He gave counsel that government exists according to the will of God. When acting according to God’s will, the higher powers of government are there for our benefit. God established them to exalt good and to punish evil, but that does not mean that ungodly men will never come to power.
We are cautioned here by Paul to be subject to government. This is not something we are to do only when it suits our personal desires. There are some who do so only out of fear of the consequences of not doing so. However, for the obedient child of God, Paul says this should be done as a matter of conscience.
The reason that God sets up governments and tears down governments is to preserve peace. Governments are set up as God’s ministers: this is not conjecture, but scripture. As such, it is right that we render tribute to the government as the law requires. It is not simply right in order to avoid punishment, but it is right because the word of God instructs us to do so.
We should always be ready to render to the various authorities that which is due them. If a tax (tribute) is due, it should be paid. Where there are limits (custom) set, we should observe them. When fear is required as the result of a wrong action, then be fearful, and give esteem (honor) to whom it is due.
With all this said, we must also rightly divide the word of truth. We are not required to disobey God in order to obey man. That does not mean that I can simply decide that I do not like a particular tax or that I can choose which laws suit me best. However, when the powers of government begin to require that we violate the holy law of God, we must stand in defense of God’s way.
There is no record in the scripture where the disciples ever failed to pay taxes. They were not blatantly disrespectful of the Sanhedrin. However, they did rebel when they were charged to not preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. They understood, and so should we, that we ought to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:27-29).
By the very record of the scripture, we must acknowledge that sometimes ungodly men come into a position of power. They burden God’s children with war, unfair practices, and all manner of evil things. We must also acknowledge that God brings such men to destruction according to His own time and purpose. However, while He may remove men from places of power, He does not remove the presence of government.
Government is good because it is ordained of God. He established government for our protection. We must always seek His direction above all else. Ultimately, the Bible tells us that the final authority of government rests upon the shoulder of our righteous King (Isa 9:6). We need to pray diligently for our governments and to see God’s righteous judgment executed by them and upon them.
May we humbly yield ourselves to the government of God above all things else!