Jesus commended a steward for being dishonest. Does the Bible endorse bending the rules, like say, when the IRS is weaponized against Christians?
Sick of High Taxes
Dear Sick of High Taxes,
Thank you for your question. No, the Bible does not commend dishonesty nor endorse a bending of the rules to avoid taxes or for any other reason. Let’s take a look at what the Bible does say about stewardship of our funds.
First, you are likely referring to the Parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke 16:1-9. A careful reading of the passage is clear that Jesus commended the subject for being shrewd, not dishonest. There is a vast difference between the two characteristics! Let me explain.
The word shrewd has a variety of meanings that I have pulled together here:
- Having or showing astute or sharp judgment in practical matters
- Marked by clever, discerning awareness – hardheaded acumen
- Artful resource management
Notice that one can be shrewd without being dishonest. Also, notice that Jesus never commended this steward for dishonesty, but for his clever scheme to get out of his painful circumstances.
“The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light” – Luke 16:8
Second, Jesus said that we are to pay our taxes by declaring in Mark 12:17, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God’s.” Caesar may take the money, but our hearts should belong to God and God alone.
We should never be dishonest about paying taxes, but we can be shrewd. We must be discerning and precise while trying to find lawful ways to minimize our taxes. One way to do that in America is to be generous. Our law allows us to itemize certain financial transactions that reduce our taxable income, such as interest paid on a mortgage or qualified charitable donations. This means we can give to our churches and support our favorite ministries while simultaneously reducing our tax liabilities. I find great joy in this and try to take full advantage of the opportunity each year.
Your reference to the IRS being “weaponized” against Christians is vague to me. There are many laws protecting us from religious discrimination. If you truly experience this type of persecution, please report it to an appropriate agency that specializes in defending our freedom of religion in this country. However, even if you were to be singled out and suffer the loss of money, assets, or freedom, you should never lose your joy. I take comfort in this passage in Hebrews 10:32-35:
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.
Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated.
You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”
God promises that “better and lasting possessions” are coming. The logical conclusion is that what we have on Earth is temporal and inferior to what He has planned for those He loves. Imagine being rewarded by our great God for trusting Him when someone takes our temporal possessions!
Look around you
We often forget some of the good that happens with our national, state, and local taxes. We have great highways, the convenience of electricity, clean water, efficient sewage, garbage systems, and some secure borders. While there is excessive waste in most government systems, much good is also being accomplished that we tend to take for granted. Thank God for the blessings you have.
If you believe that everything you have belongs to God, and know that Scripture says to pay your taxes, then why try to cheat the government out of what God says is rightfully theirs? Don’t look to the government to provide for you. Be faithful to the Lord and allow Him to bless you. His gifts far exceed Uncle Sam’s.
Our citizenship is in heaven. Let us not forget that we have been given the ministry of reconciliation. We may not agree with all our government does with our taxes, but one day we will stand before the King who rules with total justice, purity, and love. So keep an eternal perspective remembering that our time here is brief.
So, let Caesar take what Caesar demands. There’s no use getting sick over it. But give your heart only to Christ and preserve your joy.
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Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries, a global Christian ministry, founded by the late Larry Burkett. He is the host of a daily radio broadcast, My MoneyLife, featured on more than 1,000 Christian Music and Talk stations in the U.S., and author of his most recent book, Economic Evidence for God?. Be sure to follow Crown on Facebook.