My Answer: What would Jesus do? Pay taxes

Q: Last weekend, my husband started getting his tax records together, and like every other year, he's figuring out ways to cheat on his taxes. He says the government would only waste the money anyway, but I've told him that doesn't make it right. Am I being too picky? — Mrs. N.N.

A: No, you aren't being too picky, and as tax season approaches, I hope your letter will encourage others to be honest and resist the temptation to cheat on their taxes.

The Roman Empire of Jesus' day had its problems with inefficiency and corruption, and it often didn't meet the needs of its citizens and subjects. In addition, its army occupied the land of Jesus' birth, often in an oppressive way. And yet Jesus told his disciples that they still had a responsibility to pay their taxes. When asked if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, he responded, "Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" (Mark 12:17).

If we cheat on our taxes, we aren't only keeping money that isn't rightfully ours, but we're also making it harder for the government to carry out its responsibilities. If we disagree with its policies, we have the responsibility to voice our opinions, especially at the ballot box. The Bible says, "Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor" (Romans 13:7).

I hope you'll encourage your husband to be honest as he prepares his taxes this year. But most of all, I pray that you both will put Christ at the center of your lives. Don't let anything — including greed, covetousness or money — control your lives, but put Christ and his will first in all things.

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Q: Our church is talking about taking on a lot of debt in order to build a new building for our youth groups. I suppose we need it, but I wonder about going so deeply into debt. Do you think this is the right thing for us to do? — R.R.W.

A: I don't know if it's the right thing but God does know, and the most important thing you and the other members of your church can do is to seek God's will about this matter.

On one hand, you're wise to be concerned about too much debt; occasionally I've known of churches whose ministry was seriously hampered because of unwise debt. God is not honored when a church or other ministry ignores sound business principles. The Bible says, "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another" (Romans 13:8).

On the other hand, I'm thankful your church wants to reach out to young people — not only those in your church, but also others who need Christ or have no contact with a church. If we fail to reach the next generation for Christ, our churches will shrink, and our society will descend into moral and spiritual chaos. Jesus' command is clear: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15).

Modern buildings may have their place, but even more important is a commitment to use them for God's glory. And that kind of commitment only comes from a deep love for Christ and a desire to serve him. Is this true of you and others in your church? Never forget Jesus' promise: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33).

(Send your queries to "My Answer," c/o Billy Graham, Billy Graham Evangelistic Assn., 1 Billy Graham Parkway, Charlotte, N.C., 28201; call 1-(877) 2-GRAHAM, or visit http://www.billygraham.org.)

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