Question: Because there are so many dishonest people all through our government “cheating the people,” does this mean it’s all right for us to claim “just a little” of our income? Many people are being paid in such a way as to avoid paying taxes. Will God “knit pick” when it comes to Hebrews 13:17?
Answer: The answer is “No.” Absolutely not. The scriptural code that saints live by demands absolute honesty with God, with ourselves and our own souls, and with our fellow men. The Scriptures nowhere give us a right to “cheat” the “cheaters.” If we cheat the “cheaters,” we are “cheaters,” too. The amount is not important whether it be large or small. To be dishonest in small matters or amounts indicates just as faulty a character as to be dishonest in large matters or amounts. It can be pretty accurately adjudged that one who is dishonest in small amounts would also be dishonest in large amounts if he were just in a position to do so. Let us be assured that “…God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Eccl. 12:14.
This question reminds me of the story I heard about a preacher who, in going back and forth from his home to his place of worship, passed by where a chicken pen was close by the side of the road. He had noticed a real fine rooster that roosted on the fence and how easy it would be for someone to just pick him off and take him away. On one of his trips past this place when the rooster was perched on the fence as usual, he stopped and said “Mr. Rooster, some old thief is going to come by here and get you some of these nights and I think I had better just take you home with me before some old thief does come by and get you.” So he lifted the rooster and took it home with him to be cooked in his pot. But in the “rescuing” the rooster from “some old thief” he became the thief himself. So with those who “cheat” the “cheaters” on income tax or in any other way become cheaters themselves.
Also every person who files an income tax return must sign an oath or affirmation that the statements contained therein are true and correct to the best of his knowledge. It also says that the penalty for signing any false statement is a fine and/or imprisonment or both. How could a Christian sign this statement knowing he had held back something and had not properly reported all of his income? My judgment is that he would suffer a worse penalty for perjuring his conscience before God than he would from the government for perjuring himself before them.
God’s Word says in I Peter 2:12, “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” “The Gentiles” in our case would include all unsaved people, which would include the “cheaters,” too. We are instructed to have our conversation honest before them also. Let us realize that two wrongs never make a right.
Again Romans 12:17 says, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.” Also II Corinthians 8:21 says, “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.”
I Corinthians 4:5 says, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.” I do not hesitate to say, in that day we will all want to receive praise from God and not condemnation. We can be assured, in that day, all the hidden things of darkness will be brought to light and the counsels of all hearts will be revealed. I Corinthians 3:13 says, “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” Also II Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
Finally, let us conclude that we, as well as the writer of the Hebrew epistle, are “…In all things willing to live honestly.” Hebrews 13:18. Let us realize that any thing gained through fraud or dishonesty is not worth it in the end when every man will be rewarded according to his works. (Revelation 22:12.)
In Regard to God “knit picking” in reference to Hebrews 13:17, let me say that the answer is again “No.” It is not God who “knit picks,” but it is we who do the “knit picking” with ourselves, with our fellow Christians and fellow men and even with God Himself, sometimes trying to pick out the fine points to either justify or condemn as the case may be. God never “knit picks” but He searches the heart and tries the reins of every individual (I Chronicles 28:9; I Kings 8:39; Jeremiah 11:20; I Samuel 16:7). Therefore God sees and knows the true condition of all hearts. We only see the outcroppings of things but He sees the roots of everything and the true condition of everyone’s heart. Therefore He is in a position to judge everyone clear, straight, and clean-cut according to what He sees in the heart.
However, Hebrews 13:17 does not refer to government authorities but to spiritual authorities in the church. After instructing us to obey those who have the rule over us and submit ourselves, it goes on to say, “…For they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.” Surely this could not apply to politicians in government because many times they could not care less about our souls and the things pertaining unto our spiritual lives. It is the God-called, God-sent, God-appointed pastors, overseers, and ministers who care for our souls and watch out for our spiritual welfare.
However, there are several other Scriptures which teach us to be subject to the governmental authorities. I Peter 2:13-14 says, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” In Romans 13:1-7 we read, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God…. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake (verse 5)….” Let us realize that God has ordained governments, both political and spiritual, and for us to fail to be subject to either the governmental powers or the spiritual authorities in the church indicates a disposition of rebellion in the heart and God denounces rebellion as being equal to the sin of witchcraft. (I Samuel 15:23.)
Titus 3:1 says, “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work.” In the 8th verse of his epistle, Jude speaks of a degenerate class of people who “despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities.” Then he continues in verse 19 to say, “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit.” Let us realize that the Spirit of God in men’s hearts makes them different from that and makes them humble, submissive, and obedient to authority whether it be in the government or in the church.
Peter describes the same class of people as Jude and in II Peter 2:10 he says of them that they despise government, are presumptuous, self-willed, and are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Saints who have the Spirit of God are not like these people in any respect and are inclined to honor rulers and those in authority whether they be righteousness or not, for the sake of their office and position.