Romans 13:7 If you owe taxes, pay taxes.
Governments provide many things worth paying for like roads, water and defense. But they can also be corrupt, wasteful and unfair. That is why some people resent paying taxes, and under-report their income. But the Bible is clear: If you owe taxes, pay taxes.
This was not easy for Jews who were living in their homeland around this time. They not only sent their tax money to Jerusalem, but also to Rome. It seemed wrong for God’s people to support a pagan government, so they asked Jesus what to do. In one of his most quotable statements he said, give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21). That can be expensive, but if we don’t like paying our taxes, we can at least be thankful they are not going to Rome.
Romans 13:11 [O]ur salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
Many begin the Christian life enthusiastically. Their heads are high, their pace is fast, and their eyes are on the sky. But after a while, many slow their pace, and forget that heaven is near. We need to be reminded, more than once, that heaven is closer than we think.
When I was fifteen years old, my cousin and I rode our bicycles to his cabin, which was about sixty miles away. I did not understand how far that was, and I started getting tired after only twenty miles. For the rest of the way my cousin kept saying, We are almost there . . . just a little further . . . I think it’s around the corner. It was quite a bit further, actually, but every time he said it, I found a little strength. And eventually we arrived.
Likewise, the preacher’s job is to keep on saying, We’re almost there. He may sound redundant, but he is not mistaken. Even if it takes a lifetime, our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.
Romans 14:12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
If Christians are forgiven, why should we care about Judgment Day? We are holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Colossians 1:22), wrote Paul. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Hebrews 10:14), says Hebrews. And, Whoever believes in him is not condemned (John 3:18), wrote John. With promises like these, the pressure is off. And yet, Paul speaks of Judgment Day as though we should be concerned. Why does he do this?
First, many who thought they were Christians will discover they were not true Christians. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! (Matthew 7:22-23), said Jesus.
Second, Christians will still be judged. I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken (Matthew 12:36-37), said Jesus. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open (Luke 8:17), said Jesus again. Likewise, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart (1 Corinthians 4:5), wrote Paul. Since everything private will be made public, Christians should live each day in the light of Judgment Day.
Third, Christians will be rewarded for the good they have done. [T]he Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do (Ephesians 6:8), wrote Paul. For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory . . . and then he will reward each person according to what they have done (Matthew 16:27), said Jesus. Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done (Revelation 22:12), said Jesus again.
A professional football player was asked about the secret of his success. Every game is filmed [he said] and I have to give an account to the coach for every move I make, or fail to make. What inspires me most is that my coach sees every single move. And so does Jesus Christ.
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.
The church in Rome was made up of Jews and Gentiles who came from very different backgrounds. Jewish Christians observed a religious diet, and were careful about the Sabbath. Gentile Christians seemed to eat anything, and cared little about the Sabbath.
The Jewish Christians were looking down on the Gentile Christians, and the Gentile Christians were becoming impatient with the Jewish Christians. As a result, the church was being divided. Paul was never afraid of taking sides, but in this case, he simply encouraged both sides to be less judgmental.
Whenever I see another Christian acting badly I try to put myself in their shoes. If I had their DNA, family background, and personal experiences, I would probably act the same way. Sometimes evil has to be confronted (1 Corinthians 5:1-2), but it’s often best to overlook it.
Romans 15:13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.
The Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans all had numerous deities. They had gods of war, gods of weather, gods of crops, and many other gods. But in the pantheon of pagan gods, there was never a god of hope. The only God of hope is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom nothing is impossible. Paul wanted the believers in Rome to know that they could always have hope, no matter how difficult their situation.
Scientists placed a rat into a tub of water, and forty-five minutes later, it drowned. Another rat was placed into a tub of water, but thirty minutes later, it was rescued. The next day it was placed in the water again, and was able to swim for hours, because it had the hope of being rescued. The same is true of believers. [My] hope is in you all day long (Psalm 25:5), wrote David.
Reflection and Review
Why are governments important?
How would you live if you thought Christ was returning this year?
Why should Christians be concerned about Judgment Day?