Thank you for your excellent question. For those unfamiliar with 501(c)(3), it may be helpful to provide some explanation. 501(c)(3) is a section of the Internal Revenue Code in the United States. This section provides churches and religious organizations federal tax-exempt status. There is no requirement for churches to file for 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to be tax-exempt. However, in order to remain tax-exempt, churches must not use any substantial parts of their activities for influencing legislation or lobbying activities. Churches are also not permitted to participate in political campaign activities. If these rules are violated, then a church could lose its tax-exempt status and be required to pay taxes to the federal government. As long as a church follows the Internal Revenue Service’s tax exemption status requirements, people who give money to a church can deduct their donations when they file their personal tax forms. A 501(c)(3) church is a church that has either registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization and/or meets the requirements established by the IRS in section 501(c)(3).

I believe that 501(c)(3) churches are being Biblical by being tax exempt. The Lord Jesus said in Luke 20:25, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.” Caesar was the Roman emperor governing the land of Israel when Jesus was on earth. Jesus was encouraging His disciples to pay the taxes that Caesar required. By extension, Jesus was encouraging His followers to obey the government’s laws. Section 501(c)(3) permits tax exempt status for churches, and so churches are abiding by this law by not paying taxes. We also read in Titus 3:1, “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.”

You may be thinking that churches should request to lose their tax-exempt status so that they can participate in political campaign activities and try to influence legislation through lobbying. However, this brings up other questions. From a Biblical viewpoint, should churches be involved in politics? Also, should individual Christians be involved in politics? Sincere believers have opposing viewpoints on these issues. I will share with you my thoughts on this topic from the Scriptures but believe that we need to show grace with each other. I would suggest that this is an area covered by Romans 14:5, which states, “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” When a topic is not specifically addressed in the Scriptures, we should be gracious and understanding about another believer’s thoughts on the matter, instead of critical and unloving.

We read in Philippians 3:20, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (NASB). Let us compare that verse with 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” An ambassador goes to a foreign country on behalf of the country from which he or she came. Our citizenship is in heaven, but the Lord has us here on this earth to serve Him for a while. An ambassador does not have any right to vote in the elections of the country where he is serving. Therefore, in my opinion, I should not vote or get involved in the politics of this world. My citizenship is in heaven. However, as I said earlier, I realize that other Christians disagree with me and will turn to other Scriptures to support their viewpoint. Let us be kind to one another instead of contentious.

If the government tries to force individual believers or churches to stop worshipping and serving God, then we must disobey the authorities. When Peter and the other apostles were commanded by authorities not to teach in the name of Jesus, Peter said in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” The Lord does not want us to sacrifice truth to please any earthly authority. We are encouraged in Jude 3, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Let us stand strong for the Lord, not sacrificing any truth, while obeying the laws of the land as much as we can, unless the laws try to hinder us from following the Scriptures.  (DJ)  (538.1)