Acton Institute Powerblog

When Should Christians Refuse to Pay Taxes?

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As the federal government becomes ever more willing to use taxpayer dollars to fund activites that violate the conscience of its citizens, we’re increasingly faced with the question of whether we should refuse to pay those taxes. Theologian R.C. Sproul Jr. says the Christian answer is clear:

. . . I can say with confidence that Christians should in fact pay whatever taxes they owe even when that money ends up financing abortions. The Christian who pays such taxes has no need to feel guilty, while the Christian that refuses to pay, however well intentioned, ought to feel guilty.

Theologians have long understood the principle that must be applied here- we are responsible for our own actions, not the actions of others. In this instance, the Bible is quite clear about our obligation to pay our taxes (Mark 12:17). It is also clear that the proper function of the state is not to finance evil, but to punish it (Romans 13). Their failure to do what God calls them to do, however, does not mean I am free to not do what I am commanded to do. That they have so horribly misused the taxes that I have paid doesn’t mean I am guilty of what they have done. I have been taxed, and when those taxes are paid, they are no longer mine. What the state does with them may be something I should speak against. It may be something I should condemn. But I am not guilty.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).