Donate

"There can be no progress towards the complete development of individuals without the simultaneous development of all humanity in the spirit of solidarity."

Taxes get a bad rap in the New Testament. Tax collectors were agents of the contentious interplay between the dominant Romans and the Jewish community and a tangible standard of the Roman influence on the Jews. These middlemen claimed more money than was lawful. They were widely reviled enough to become well-characterized in the Gospels as akin to other societal outcasts, much like lepers or prostitutes.

"There can be no progress towards the complete development of individuals without the simultaneous development of all humanity in the spirit of solidarity."

Taxes get a bad rap in the New Testament. Tax collectors were agents of the contentious interplay between the dominant Romans and the Jewish community and a tangible standard of the Roman influence on the Jews. These middlemen claimed more money than was lawful. They were widely reviled enough to become well-characterized in the Gospels as akin to other societal outcasts, much like lepers or prostitutes.

This negative connotation surrounding taxes persists to this day. People of faith looking to the Gospels for guidance will have to look deeper than Jesus' compassion for the sycamore-climbing Zacchaeus. Jesus’ compassion, which raised the crowd's ire and led to a quick conversion, speaks more positively to Zacchaeus' own change of heart than to the value of taxes.

But the context has changed significantly from that of an invasive foreign government threatening our well-being and culture. Tax collectors are no longer expensive go-betweens abusing their position. Taxes themselves are no longer a symbol of oppression, although some still paint them that way.

It’s hard to give up something you feel you’ve earned, and taxes can frequently feel like a one-sided exchange with the government. But when we pause to think about just what taxes do, we find plenty of good. By and large, taxes fund basic human rights within our society. We have hospitals, free education, access to energy and water, and support for the elderly, disabled, and unemployed thanks to the taxes we pay.  

And we do all pay, every time we make or spend money, even on a candy bar. We all benefit from this shared contribution. No one who pays taxes lives without reaping the benefits of a nation of taxpayers.  

It’s easy to reflect on the Gospels and find tangible, immediate ways to live them out in contemporary society. Taxes are a little harder; the benefits are further removed from the sacrifices. When living out the Gospels, there is no better way to collectively "comfort the afflicted” than each contributing a nominal amount of our own resources towards a greater good.

Alone, we would be hard-pressed to institute and maintain a service that provides for basic human necessities like food, hygiene, and freedom of movement for everyone. But as a society, we have it in our power to create and sustain such institutions because of taxes. 

As Catholics, we seek to preserve the dignity of all and live together in solidarity for the common good. Recognizing the shared goals of the Gospels and benefits of taxes in today’s world, we should take pride in paying our taxes. This is just one small way we can live out the call of Christ.