January 16, 2012

Render to Caesar, but Plunder the Egyptians (Lessons for a New Tax Year)

It’s January, and already those numbered forms are piling up. W-2. Schedule SE. Publication 2043. It can only mean one thing: taxes.

The Bible directs Christians to pay taxes to the civil government. Jesus says it in Luke 20:25: “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” Paul also says it in Romans 13:6-7: “you also pay taxes, for the authority are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed. . . .”

Am I happy that my tax dollars are used to fund abortions and teach evolutionary biology? No. But do I think that the early Christians were happy that their tax money was used to purchase saint-eating lions for Roman amusement? Hmmm.

In every age, under every type of government, we bow to the command of the King of Kings: pay your taxes.

But there is another principle for a new tax year that I, half-jesting, call “plundering the Egyptians.”

You know the story. On the day of the Exodus, God gave the Israelites favor with the Egyptians, and they walked out with their freedom and handfuls of jewelry, too. God’s people, by God’s command, plundered the Egyptians.

This leads me to think that if someone who is ruling over you offers you something, it’s okay to take it.

Which brings me to the W-2s and 1040s and Schedule Cs on the desk. I’m not an accountant, and I’m not giving professional tax advice. I am saying that the IRS offers ministry families some breaks, and we should use them.

If your husband is filing taxes as a minister, and if you own your home, your church can officially designate part of his salary as a housing allowance. It is no additional expense to them, and it will allow you to use that money, untaxed, for home-related purchases.

The IRS (and anyone who is in ministry!) acknowledges that the minister’s home is part of his ministry. And, honestly, would you be on your third coffee maker in ten years if you weren’t constantly brewing decaf French Roast for committees, small groups, Bible studies, and prayer meetings? That new Cusinart is legitimately and legally part of the cost of being in ministry.

So, what’s a denarius-rendering, Egyptian-plundering girl to do?

(1) Keep your monthly bills on file. This includes mortgage payments, homeowners insurance, utility bills, yard maintenance, and (my favorite, as a Northerner living in the land of roaches) pest control.

(2) Save your receipts for every household purchase. Think cleaning supplies, home furnishings, appliances, and light bulbs.

(3) When possible, purchase all your household items on one receipt. (My husband will laugh when he reads this---the spirit is willing, but the lines at Wal-Mart are long and my children are impatient.) On my better days, I group my purchases in two orders: one for household, one for everything else. Having everything on one receipt makes it easier to itemize in April.

A year’s worth of receipts for Windex, Murphy’s Oil Soap, and GE long life bulbs add up. Render to Caesar. Plunder the Egyptians.


  1. I use Quicken and record all our receipts throughout the year. In April it is then super easy to get the total expenses.

  2. I am a bit more Old School, but I save the household receipts, with the tax-deductible ones starred, in a paper folder. At tax time, my husband adds them up. Our accountant says he is the most organized minister she sees at tax time.

    1. My hubby scans every receipt at the end of every month, keeping monthly digital copies of everything in appropriate folders on the computer. Not a ton of paper to keep track of and makes filing our taxes super easy each year.

  3. We make copies of most receipts for tax purposes since the paper some receipts are printed fades over time until it is unreadable in a year or less.

    1. This is so wise; I, too, have experienced the disappearing ink problem. Now, if I could just keep my kids from using them to wrap their chewed gum. . . .


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