“Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”. Matthew 22:21.

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Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa

Something that is so rare we believe it’d never happened before in this country actually happened yesterday morning. 

It did when while glancing across the front page of yesterday’s Weekend Observer, right there was that headline, saying: “Pay your taxes, P.M. tells Church Ministers.”

Well, we all know that the acronym P.M. stands for Prime Minister, who happens to be Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malilelgaoi.

 But then what we did not expect was him sounding so brutally impolite, so that it felt as if it was quite impossible to stem that nauseating feeling of revulsion, as it was gushing fitfully up the throat.

Sure, we all know that for sometime now the government has been talking about enacting a law aimed as taxing church ministers, but then what we didn’t know was that the government must be so broke so that Prime Minister Tuilaepa, was now finding that he had no choice at all but to force those church ministers to stop whining, and start paying up their silly income taxes. 

Now!

So how seriously broke this country has become, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malilelgaoi? 

So broke so that all over all those years of political independence there hadn’t been a beep about a need to tax church ministers, and now that we are a one-party state with King Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi at the helm, even God’s Church is being targeted as a taxpayer?  

So what’s going on here? 

All we know is that Prime Minister Tuilaepa has made up his mind that church ministers will be taxed, and that’s fine. What we’re sure about though was what he meant when he told reporters during a recent press conference, that “taxes belong to the government and therefore church ministers should pay.” 

He went on to say: “There are certain types of church ministers. There are the ones who read the Bible, (that way) they understand that it is their duty ‘to give to Caesar what belongs to him’ and pay their taxes.”

On the other hand, “there are those church ministers who read the Bible, see what it says, and refuse to do it,” Tuilaepa told reporters. “(Now) such church ministers are in the dark.”

He continued: “Paul made it very clear that all authorities are from God. That is, all authorities in all organizations in the world, are of God. 

“So those people who reject such authorities are against God,” he said. “Therefore they should pay their taxes.”

Fine.

So let’s go to the Word of God, otherwise known as the Bible, to find out that which is God’s, and that which is Caesar’s. 

Matthew 22:21. Jesus said: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” 

Romans 13:1 “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.”

What does it mean to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s?

It means: “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s. 

This was Jesus’ response when his enemies tried to trap him by asking whether it was right for the Jews, whose nation had been taken over by the Roman Empire, to pay tribute  to the Roman emperor.

Which Caesar was in power when Jesus was crucified?

Tiberius (Latin: Tiberius Caesar DīvīAugustīFīlius Augustus; 16 November 42 BC – 16 March 37 AD). He was a Roman emperor from 14 AD to 37 AD. 

Born Tiberius Claudius Nero, a Claudian, Tiberius was the son of Tiberius Claudius Nero and Livia Drusilla.

What does the phrase give Caesar his due mean?

Saith Jesus unto them: Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. 

When they heard these words, they marveled, and left him, and went their way. 

Still, what it “means” cannot be assigned in your situation without more context. Indeed, a loose phrase means little.

Now let’s consider these words: What is Caesar’s is Caesar’s, what is God’s is God’s?

One of them showed Jesus a Roman coin, and he asked them: “Whose head and inscription are on it?” 

They answered: “Caesar’s.” 

He responded: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”.

And so, who was the Caesar in the Bible?

Caesar Augustus, the first emperor in the ancient Roman Empire; he issued an order which fulfilled a biblical prophecy made 600 years before he was born. 

The Gospel of Luke tells us that Caesar Augustus ordered a census taken of the entire Roman world, possibly for tax purposes.

So what then belonged to Caesar? What did he grave for? 

Money! Cash! Plenty of it!

That was the prophecy. 

On the other hand, what belonged to God?

Kindness. Generosity. Love. 

As in love thy enemy just as you love thyself!

And yet here today, on this little outcrop on the ocean called Samoa, the government of the so-called Human Rights Protection Party - lorded over by the man who is never wrong named Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi - is demanding that effective from 01 January 2018, all church ministers are required by law to pay taxes to their government.

“It’s the right thing to do,” Tuilaepa told reporters. “They should pay tax to the government since tax belongs to the government.” 

And yet throughout the years, all church ministers had been exempted from paying taxes to the government, on the incomes they’d been earning which included monetary gifts they received from funerals, weddings, cultural ceremonies and whatnot.

Still, the idea that the church ministers had not been required to pay taxes to the government all that time - which suggests that all was well then since their contributions were not needed - has somehow given rise to the worry as to why Tuillaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, the chap who loved to make everyone think he was always right, is strangely quite these days.

What we really want to know then is what exactly is going on here? 

Has this country’s economy somehow plunged into a terrible mess we don’t know about so that even Tuilaepa Sa’ilele  Malielegaoi himself, the man who loved to boast that only he was right and everyone else was wrong, is so keen on getting those church ministers to start paying the government, those much-needed taxes?

Time will tell.

Have a peaceful Sunday Samoa, God bless.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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