JESUS NEVER PAID TAXES

As was said by an itinerant-Internet preacher: “The Lord Jesus was also the only honest businessman in the world because he paid his taxes.”

Dear Mr. Preacherman: That is a damn lie. There are lots of honest businessmen, and Jesus never paid his nor anyone else’s taxes. Taxation is theft. It is identical in every respect to the felony crime of extortion–except the state immunizes its collectors from prosecution. Paying an extortionist only ensures he will keep at it. The sophistry that denies taxation is theft would never fool Jesus. Especially in the first-century Roman Empire, taxes were a brutal form of extortion, impoverishing and causing many peasant Jews to lose their treasured lands, which the Hebrew Bible tells us was given to their ancestors by God Himself.  Those who collect taxes cannot abide by Jesus’ two most famous principles: “Do to others what you would have them do to you,” and, “Love your neighbors as yourself.”  Jesus would have no part in stealing people’s property and calling it taxation in hopes of avoiding one’s just deserts.

And please do not cite Matthew 17 and argue Jesus paid the Temple tax. If you read that passage carefully you will see that the chapter ends before we learn whether Peter followed Jesus’ directions (he often did not), caught a fish with a coin in its mouth (Peter, a professional fisherman, probably thought Jesus was pulling his leg his instructions were so outlandish), and used the money to pay the Temple tax for Jesus and himself. As far as Matthew’s report of the incident goes, the tax could remain unpaid to this day, for the story ends before we learn what Peter did or did not do after Jesus told him to go fishing. Furthermore, if in fact Peter did follow through, caught a fish on his first cast with a coin in its mouth, and gave the money to the tax collectors, it still cannot in truth be said that Jesus paid the tax. For it was Peter who shot off his mouth, incurring an obligation Jesus would not have incurred; it was Peter who caught the fish with money in its mouth; and if he did follow through and give the coin to the tax collectors, it would have been Peter who handed the magic coin over to the tax collectors. This is certain from Matthew’s account: Peter didn’t get any money from Jesus to pay the tax. It makes more sense to say the fish paid the tax or Peter paid the tax. Clearly, Jesus did not and would not pay it. Furthermore, Jesus told Peter that as the son of God, the King of kings, he was–and by logical extension all of his disciples, children of God dwelling in the Kingdom of God are–exempt from human taxes. Finally, if in fact Jesus did conjure a coin in a fish’s mouth to pay a tax he did not owe in order to save Peter from the consequences of shooting off his big mouth before engaging his brain, and erroneously telling the tax collectors Jesus would pay the tax, it is all but certain that after Peter gave the magic coin to the tax collectors and received credit for having paid his and Jesus’ tax, the conjured coin would have vanish from the tax collectors’ coffers by the same magic by which it appeared in the fish’s mouth in the first place. Jesus would never provide real money to support Rome’s evil Empire or its pedophile emperor, Tiberius (see, http://www.historyextra.com/article/international-history/8-bloodiest-roman-emperors-history).

As for Jesus’ brilliant retort to a question meant to trap him into revealing his well-known condemnation of Caesar’s tax, an incident reported in Matthew 22, Mark 12 and Luke 20, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar,” means exactly what his words convey. Jesus didn’t mince words. So, if you have nothing in your possession belonging to Caesar–and no one in the Roman Empire ever did, for Caesar was a thief, not a lender or giver–Jesus’ explicit instructions are, “give Caesar nothing!” Jesus’ response confounded the “spies” who were sent to trap him, but it didn’t baffle his disciples, who knew exactly what he meant, for he had been saving tax collectors from their evil occupation since the inception of his ministry. (MK 2:13-17)  And to make certain he wasn’t misunderstood, he added, “And give God what belongs to God.” Understanding that comment requires knowing what Jesus believed belongs to God and what belonged to Caesar. In this regard, Sacred Hebrew Scripture, by which Jesus consistently justified himself and his ministry, is unequivocal, for it states at least six time, as in Psalm 24 verse 1, “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it,” which leaves nothing for poor old Caesar, and nothing is precisely what Jesus would have his disciples voluntarily give to the ever-violent state.

Dishonest “spies” were sent by members of the Temple hierarchy–chief priests, teachers of the law, Pharisees–to trick Jesus into condemning Caesar’s tax, which they knew he would do if he answered their entrapping question, “Is it lawful (according to God’s law) to pay Caesar’s tax? Should we pay or not?” (MK 12) When he responded as the priests were sure he would, “Don’t pay!” the spies were to immediately take him and hand him over to Pontus Pilate as an “illegal tax resister.” (That’s an IRS tem.) The Temple hierarchy was composed of men who had reached a mutually profitable accord with their Roman conquerors by assuring Rome they would see to it that their fellow Jews peacefully paid all their taxes. In exchange, the priests received a portion of the loot for themselves. and their co-conspirators, just as the Christian hierarchy began sharing in the lucre from Rome’s taxes after the Church was subsumed by the Empire during the reign of Constantine. Jesus’ brilliant retort to the stupid spies’ question so befuddled them that the Gospels tell us they were “amazed,” (MT and MK), or “astonished,” (LK). Instead of capturing him, they walked away shaking their heads.

The spies’ handlers, however, were not fooled by Jesus’ cryptic denunciation of Caesar’s tax. When the dumb spies reported what Jesus had said to the priests, these well-educated men knew exactly what Jesus meant. So they next sent armed henchmen to take him by force in the Garden at Gethsemane, where Judas had informed them Jesus would be found apart from the worshipful  throngs that had followed him to Jerusalem. The thugs seized Jesus violently, and the priests quickly dragged him before Pilate, the man responsible for collecting Rome’s taxes in Judea. Here, according to the Gospel of Luke (Ch. 23), is what they told Pilate about Jesus: “We found this man perverting our nation (viz., Rome), forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor…” Is it any wonder Pilate crucified Jesus? Forbidding the payment of taxes was a capital offense in the Roman Empire..

The lie the Internet preacher told was not original with him. Christian-church scholars and leaders and government officials for almost 1700 years have been misinterpreting the “render unto Caesar incident,” and misrepresenting Jesus’ words, telling Christians, “Jesus said you should pay your taxes, and he thereby endorsed the concept of  humans governing other humans by force (viz., the concept of empires and nation-states).” As a consequence of this gross deception, extortionary taxes were made a part of Christian doctrine, while immoral human governments, which Jesus would have no part of, have thrived on taxes. Without this gross dishonesty by the Christian hierarchy, a voluntary society not unlike the Kingdom of God Jesus preached, might have already emerged from the emaciated remains of nation-states, which had been starved of revenue by the righteous voices of Jesus’ enlightened disciples saying, “Pay no taxes!”