“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, everyone into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; to be pay tax with Mary his espoused wife being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:1-7, KJV).
Luke’s account of the story of the birth of Jesus has an interesting detail. It tells us that the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem was as a result of a tax decree. Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor at the time, ordered all people to return to their villages to be counted for tax purposes. Like it is today, when people flock to their villages over Christmas, it can be quite a challenge to find a hotel, guest house or Airbnb. And that was the challenge for Mary and Joseph! They didn’t have a village home and needed a hotel to stay be counted and register for taxes! But alas! all places were full (like Fort Portal right now) and that’s how Jesus ended up being born in a stable! If there had been no such decree, Jesus could have been born in Egypt where his parents were living at the time! We would not be singing “O little town of Bethlehem..”.
The tax aspect of the story may seem like a minor detail but nothing in the bible is minor. What we learn from Luke’s account is that tax laws and decrees should be complied with just like Mary and Joseph did. It also tells us that good things happen when we comply with our tax obligations. In Mary and Joseph’s case, they were rewarded with a healthy and bouncing baby boy!
The story of taxes doesn’t end here. Jesus, as a grown man, later affirms the importance of paying one’s taxes and we seem him befriend tax collectors. Matthew, one of his disciples and friend was a tax collector; Zacchaeus, the chief tax-collector (Commissioner General) at the time and known primarily for his faith in climbing a sycamore tree to see Jesus was also a friend. We should emulate Jesus and build healthy relationships with our tax collectors and make them our friends. For example, do you know who your relationship manager is at the URA? Why not find out and surprise them?
Jesus also tells us in Luke 20:25 to give unto Caesar (the government) what belongs to Caesar and to God, what belongs to God. Have you given to the government what belongs to it? VAT, PAYE, corporate income tax, excise duty, stamp duty and all other dues?
Friends, as we head to our villages and towns to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, let’s do so with a clear conscience, having fully and honorably paid our taxes. Let’s be as compliant as Mary and Joseph. Jesus would surely love that!
Have a Merry Christmas.