In Romans 13:1 we read, “Let every soul to subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” The Apostle Paul makes it clear in this verse that our “governing authorities…are appointed by God.” This simply means that God allows men to come into power to serve His purposes. Some of those men may be “evil in their personal lives” or even “corrupt in their political lives,” but God has a purpose for them being there in spite of themselves.

The passage goes on to say, “Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience sake” (verses 2-5). When Paul wrote this a man named Nero was the ruler of the Roman Empire. He was a very wicked man (in his private life and in his public life), yet God says (twice!) that “he is God’s minister.” The word “minister” means “servant” so this means that even Nero was, in some sense, “SERVING God’s purpose as a ruler.”

Now we are prepared to read verses 6-7, “For because of this you also PAY TAXES, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to their very thing. Render therefore to all their due; taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” It is a fact that in order for a government to function they must have financial support and they get this through citizens PAYING TAXES. They need money for police departments, fire departments, National Guard, etc. As citizens we must support the government through taxes, even if we don’t agree with how some of those taxes are being used. It must be said (and our passage today reinforces this) that government, overall, is “for our good.” Without it there would be lawlessness and anarchy would prevail in our streets. We have seen examples of this in recent months here in the United States with rioters burning buildings and committing acts of violence against innocent people. Thankfully most of these riots were ended by policemen and National Guard troops. It has been rightly said, “Any government is better than no government at all.” I trust we would all agree with that and thus as citizens we should “pay taxes” to support our government. Let’s remember that our blessed Lord Jesus was also obedient to the Roman government and paid taxes (see Matthew 17:24-27) and in Matthew 22:21 He said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that God’s.” In this statement He was teaching believers that we have a DUAL CITIZENSHIP; we are “citizens on earth” and “citizens of heaven” (see Philippians 3:20). As “citizens of earth” we MUST PAY TAXES and in doing so we are “doing good.”

Verse 7 also teaches us to “fear” and “honor” governing authorities. The word “fear” means we should have a “reverential fear” of disobeying them and being punished by them (as we saw in verses 2-4). The word “honor” means we should “show them respect.” We do this by our obedience and by speaking respectfully of them. Again, their personal lives may not be something we can honor but their POSITION, as a governing authority, is to be honored. The Apostle Peter charges the readers of his day (and ours) to “Honor the king” (1st Peter 2:17), even if the king is personally a wicked man.

Verse 8 introduces a new subject, for it reads, “Owe no man anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.” Perhaps Paul’s words about “paying taxes” led him to think (as inspired of God) of how believers are also to “pay their bills.” We are not to go into DEBT, which dishonors the Lord. Yet there is a debt we will always have; to continually “love one another.”  (443.5)  (DO)