The Tax Exempt Status of the Church

When a church is formed it applies for and receives IRS status as a 501(c)(3) corporation. This status allows contributions made to the church to be deductible by the donors, and the church to be exempt from paying taxes.  This is seldom questioned except in cases where churches cross the line between Church and State usually by overt support or opposition to political candidates or issues.  The very concept that a church has the right to be exempt from paying taxes is never questioned, but the Bible is very clear on the issue.  Jesus was asked the question, answered it very clearly, and his answer is completely ignored by the church.  Three of the four gospels recount the incident that brought this question before the ultimate judge of all things related to the church.  Here is the answer from Matthew, Mark, and Luke:
♦  Matthew 22:15 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. 16 And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. 17 Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? 18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? 19 Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. 20 And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? 21 They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. 22 When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
♦  Mark 12:13 And they send unto him certain of the Pharisees and of the Herodians, to catch him in his words. 14 And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth: Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we give, or shall we not give? But he, knowing their hypocrisy, said unto them, Why tempt ye me? bring me a penny, that I may see it. 16 And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar’s. 17 And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him.
♦  Luke 20:20 And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor. 21 And they asked him, saying, Master, we know that thou sayest and teachest rightly, neither acceptest thou the person of any, but teachest the way of God truly: 22 Is it lawful for us to give tribute unto Caesar, or no? 23 But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me? 24 Shew me a penny. Whose image and superscription hath it? They answered and said, Caesar’s. 25 And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s. 26 And they could not take hold of his words before the people: and they marvelled at his answer, and held their peace.

      Consider a simple question.  If one could stand before Jesus and ask the question, “Should those who follow Christ pay taxes to the government currently in power?” What would be his answer?  You be the judge of whether the church is correct in seeking tax exemption. 

Translate »