“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” Romans 13:7 (ESV)
Does this chapter mean you should pay your taxes? Yes. Does this chapter mean you should respect the government, even if you happen to support an opposing party? Yes. Does it mean something even more? Yes.
I’ve always loved this passage from Matthew 22. The Pharisees are trying to trap Jesus with a question about taxes, and He answers this way: ” ‘Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, 20 and he asked them,’Whose image is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s,’ they replied. Then he said to them, ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’” (Matthew 22:19-21 NIV).
Money, debt, and taxes are of this world. They should be paid and settled in an honorable way in this world. But Jesus didn’t stop there. He didn’t just say “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” He continued, saying, “…and to God what is God’s.” How did He determine what things are Caesar’s? The things made in his image. So, is Jesus talking about taxes? Yes. But He is also making a huge statement about our lives. Genesis 1:26a says, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'” So when Jesus says give to God what is God’s, He is speaking about us. We are made in His image; we are His. And we must give ourselves back to Him.
Paul is doing the same thing here in Romans 13. Should we pay taxes? Yes. Should we pay our debts? Yes. But in the same way, we should give respect and honor to those who deserve it. Does this mean we should respect and honor our government officials? Yes. But no one deserves our respect and honor more than God. And we must purpose to do that today as well. We must give ourselves to Him. We must give Him respect and honor.