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Romans 13:7

ESV Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
NIV Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
NASB Pay to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; respect to whom respect; honor to whom honor.
CSB Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.
NLT Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.
KJV Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
NKJV Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.

What does Romans 13:7 mean?

Paul concludes this section on submitting to government authorities with a broader statement about paying what is owed in every sense of the word. In short, Paul describes Christians as people who pay what is owed in all cases. This includes taxes, as described in the previous verse, revenue—meaning money—as well as respect and honor. While we're obligated to disobey openly ungodly commands (Acts 5:27–29), Christians are to live lives, in general, of lawful obedience.

Within the context of this section, adding the words respect and honor to what believers owe government may make Paul's teaching even more difficult. Peter's letters go even further when he instructs that we must honor the emperor (1 Peter 2:13–17). It's important to note the difference between giving respect and honor versus having a high opinion of, or voicing praise for someone. Paul does not command living-sacrifice Christians to have positive thoughts for every authority figure. Nor does he command believers to advocate or defend them when they are wrong. Instead, Paul eliminates the option for us to speak and act in ways that are disrespectful and dishonoring.

As other Scriptures make clear, this also does not mean believers are to be unquestioningly obedient. Beginning with Jesus and Paul and the other apostles, Christianity has a long history of civil disobedience to those in authority. Most famously, Peter and the other apostles continued to preach the gospel when ordered not to. They said, "We must obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Most of them paid for that position with their lives: that's "submission" in contrast to "obedience."

Even in those circumstances, though, those martyred believers did not refuse to be respectful or honoring toward those in positions of what they believed to be God-given authority. Paul's larger point is that Christians should never be known as people who defy and disrespect authority, especially in matters not related to obeying God. In addition, he insists that our acts of respect, honor, and submission to human authorities are, in truth, acts of faith in the God who provides for us.
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