Taxes and the Christian

By COGwriter

What about taxes?

Should Christians pay them? Why do the descendants of Israel pay them? Are taxes inevitable?

In the USA, one of the biggest bites on our income is taxes.  There are state and federal income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes and other taxes.  And some countries, especially in Europe, taxes are higher.

In nations around the world, taxes are the most important means of financing government and providing certain services for the people. In many places, taxes are assessed on a percentage of income-generally on an increasing scale. Despite taxes, many governments are falling further behind and increasing debt. They then also often resort to increasing taxation (Kelly R. Coping with the Tax Man, Plain Truth, May 1984, p. 7).

Now it is not just modern countries that require taxes.

History shows that taxation occurred in places such as ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome. The famous Rosetta Stone mentions taxes on grain and wine. Humankind has suffered taxation throughout history, and much of this is a consequence of  rejecting God’s government.  But of course, taxes themselves are a lesser of the many evils human's have suffered because of this rejection.

Nothing is So Certain?

Back in 1981, the following was published:

Tax time, as one poet called it, is "the cruelest month." While you're thinking of taxes, ask yourself how God views them-and then realize God has something far better.

NOTHING is so certain, so the saying goes, as death and taxes.

Don't be so sure.

Taxes are not eternal! In the World Tomorrow, man's taxing systems will be junked. Replaced by God's tithing system that has been in force from the beginning of human life-but of which most people know little or nothing!

There are big differences between taxes and tithing.

Man's system of taxation is "progressive." That means the percentage of tax goes up as your income goes up...

God's system is far more intelligent: it is a flat percentage system. The word tithe means "tenth." A tithe of anything is the tenth part of it. It is a constant proportion.

It is based on the fact that God owns all, but only claims a small part of the increase produced from the earth he created. Tithing is a system totally without "respect of persons." It treats the high income earners the same as the poor. The "progressive" system is based on envy of the more wealthy-it deals with people unequally, depending on their income. The tithing system is totally neutral toward who you are.

Keep It Simple ...

Many, if not most people, get help filling out their income tax returns. Why is man's tax system so complicated? Almost all the complexity in our tax systems, believe it or not, stems from just one thing-the progressive rates! Because men did not model their tax structure on God's tithing system, they have fallen into suffocating confusion. High income earners, because of progressive rates, go through incredible exertions...

God's financial system is different. It doesn't encourage young working singles to live together. Ten percent is ten percent. God's system does not discriminate either in favor of or against people based on their marital status.

Man's system further encourages a borrow-to-get-it-now attitude. American tax laws, for example, allow you to deduct interest from the income on which you pay tax.

This, plus the progressive rates, means that a high income person is almost forced to go out and borrow as much as he can just to keep out of the jaws of his high bracket.

God's system is so much saner! The decision to borrow money is made on its own merits. Because of the flat rate, the tithing system doesn't affect it one way or another. And certainly it doesn't give someone an incentive to buy something on credit just to be buying it as man's system does.

Similarities

Of course, there are some similarities between God's tithing system and man's tax system. Both taxes and tithes take precedence over other debts. In American law, for example, the tax collector gets his money first - even before God!- and certainly before any of your other creditors get theirs if you can't pay all your debts. According to biblical law, the tithe is the debt you owe God...

In the World Tomorrow, the tithing system will completely replace men's tax systems. There will be no more complicated rules on capital gains, no more desperate attempts to be taxed at a lower rate. (Calkins J. TODAY'S TAX SYSTEMS - And How They Will Be Changed. Plain Truth, April 1981, pp. 7-8)

In today's societies, especially that of the USA, taxes are not simple. Actually, they are so complicated that tax authorities often do not understand them, nor are taxpayers allowed to totally rely on answers to tax questions even if the answers come from federal income tax authorities (as far as tithing, see also the article Tithing Questions and Some Answers; as far as tithes go, I believe that while they are to be 10 percent of one's increase, and this is after deducting income taxes).

Jesus chastised the lawyers of His day for imposing heavy burdens on the people (Luke 11:46). Modern taxes are an excessively complicated burden. But should Christians try to comply anyway?

Jesus and Taxes

What did Jesus teach about taxes?

Jesus taught that people were to pay taxes:

14 When they had come, they said to Him, "Teacher, we know that You are true, and care about no one; for You do not regard the person of men, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?"

But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, "Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it."  16 So they brought it.

And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's."

17 And Jesus answered and said to them,  "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."  (Mark 12:14-17)

Notice that He also paid taxes, even though He knew He should be legitimately exempted:

24 When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?"

25 He said, "Yes."

And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?"

26 Peter said to Him, "From strangers."

Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free.  27 Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you."  (Matthew 17:24-27)

The Apostle John taught:

6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.  (1 John 2:6)

Thus, Christians should pay their taxes.

Ronald Kelly wrote about Jesus and taxes as follows:

Jesus on Taxation and Tithing

By the time Jesus of Nazareth was born , the Middle East was under Roman control. In fact, taxation had something to do with the location of the birth of Jesus. "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed" (Luke 2: 1, Authorized Version).

Roman law on occasion required every resident to return to the area of his or her family origins for the purpose of taking a census and paying taxes. Joseph and Mary made the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to keep the Feast of Tabernacles and to meet the Roman census-taxation requirement. And so it was that in Bethlehem Jesus was born.

More than 30 years later Jesus was confronted with the question of paying the Roman tax-a tax most felt unjust and exorbitant.

There had been more than one tax revolt among the Jewish populace. It had even become a subject of religious debate among factions of the Jews.

On one occasion some of the religious leaders, attempting to trick Jesus, asked : "Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" (Matt. 22: 17).

If Jesus spoke against paying taxes, they could turn him over to Roman officials for his rebellion against Roman law. And if he favored it, he could be viewed as holding pro-Roman feelings.

But Jesus had a calm and wise answer no one could refute: " 'Show me the coin used for paying the tax,''' he requested.

" ' Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?' 'Caesar's,' they replied. Then he said to them 'Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's' " (Matt. 22:19-21).

The Roman government, whether right or wrong, had the authority to collect taxes. Jesus did not justify a tax revolt. If Caesar had demanded a tax, then the tax was to be paid. But Jesus was careful to point out one must not neglect his duty to God while fulfilling one's tax obligations to the nation or the state.

On another occasion Jesus commented on tithing. As we have seen, tithing had been the means God set up to finance his work since the days of Abraham.

In the days of Jesus the Jewish religious leaders had been careful to impose strict adherence to ritual, custom and tradition. But they often overlooked the spiritual intent of God's law.

For example, on the subject of tithing , many among the Jews had been practicing a very zealous and meticulous procedure to determine their tithes. But they were neglecting other important matters of major spiritual significance. Addressing this problem Jesus said: "Woe to you , teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint , dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law -- justice , mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former" (Matt. 23:23).

Many of them had spent so much time counting out tiny grains of spices or mint leaves, they didn't have time to serve, their fellowman. But they could proudly point to how precisely they counted out exactly 10 percent of their dill.

Jesus showed tithing is an important obligation to God-be careful to do it-but don't neglect other important responsibilities to fellowman...

The Jews returning from Babylonian captivity began to forsake God-falling back into disobedience as the people had before the captivity.

So Malachi wrote, speaking for God: "'Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, "How do we rob you?" In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse-the whole nation of you-because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,' says the Lord Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it'" (Mal. 3 : 8- 10).

Tithing was never meant to be a burden.

Frankly, taxation can be. But the government where you live will insist you pay taxes. And while you may not always cheerfully do so, it is an obligation you have for living in your country. (Kelly R. Coping with the Tax Man, Plain Truth, May 1984, p. 8-9,30).

Taxes, as well as tithes and offerings are something that Christians should not neglect today (see also Tithing Questions and Some Answers).

Ancient Israel Had its Own Ideas About Government

Ancient Israel had a tithing system. And, at least from the time of Moses, normally was under a theocratic (religious) government.

Yet, notice what happened to ancient Israel when they wanted a king instead of a prophet of God as their primary human leader:

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, 5 and said to him, "Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations."

6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." So Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, "Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. 8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day — with which they have forsaken Me and served other gods — so they are doing to you also. 9 Now therefore, heed their voice. However, you shall solemnly forewarn them, and show them the behavior of the king who will reign over them."

10 So Samuel told all the words of the Lord to the people who asked him for a king. 11 And he said, "This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. 12 He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. 14 And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. 16 And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. 18 And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day."

19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No, but we will have a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles."  (1 Samuel 8:4-20)

Since the time of Samuel, governments have often not been satisfied for a tenth, but have wanted more and more.  And this is happening to many of those in USA, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere.

While governments come up with reasons that they want taxes, some of which seem more legitimate than others, as the account in 1 Samuel shows, the Bible suggests that governments will increase taxes essentially for the benefit of the government.  And essentially this is a punishment for disobedience.

As far how Israel collected some taxes, notice also something from Biblical Archaeology:

How Ancient Taxes Were Collected Under King Manasseh

April 9, 2012

...taxpayers may take some small comfort in the fact that taxes are by no means a modern invention...a recent archaeological discovery concerning ancient taxes in Jerusalem has added to scholars’ certainty about a tax system in ancient Israel, especially during the reign of Judah’s King Manasseh.

...he thinks the bullae are evidence for a system of ancient taxes used by Hezekiah’s son and successor, King Manasseh, in the seventh century B.C.E. Barkay told BAR that under this system, “the urban administrative centers collected [ancient] taxes in kind [i.e., grain, oil, etc.] and then sent them on to the king in Jerusalem with the documentation attached and sealed by these bullae identifying where it had come from—in this case, Gibeon.” At least 19 cities are identified in the paleo-Hebrew inscriptions on the fiscal bullae, representing nine of the 12 districts of Judah listed in Joshua 15:20–63. Barkay suggests that this Biblical passage may even have been composed for purposes of administering and collecting ancient taxes during the reign of King Manasseh.
http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/ancient-israel/how-ancient-taxes-were-collected-under-king-manasseh/?mqsc=E3105144

Tax records have gone back for some time. And various modern governments have started to follow the lead of the USA government to make their own tax reporting more complicated, burdensome, etc.

It may be of interest to note that the paperwork and reporting burdens of complying with USA taxes is close to unbearable if one also owns a business in the USA, invests, etc. This burden is making it more difficult for US residents to run businesses, function internationally, or compete internationally--and the regulatory burdens are expected to increase. These costs and burdens hurt US competitiveness and thus have negative impacts on the economy of the USA. Yet important USA politicians seem determined to worsen the situation--and thus, this is yet another factor that ultimately will lead to the end of the USA dollars dominance as the world's reserve currency. Despite the costs and burdens, faithful members of the Church of God pay their required taxes as Jesus indicates we should.

Constitutional Issues and Conclusion

Some in the USA believe that certain taxes, such as income taxes, are either voluntary or unconstitutional. While the leadership of the USA likes to use the term voluntary, they and the enforcement agencies have basically interpreted that to mean that you (or your accountant) fill out your tax forms and voluntarily submit them between January 1st and April 15th of the year. This "voluntary" system is enforced with court orders and police might if one does not submit the documents and/or expected tax payments.

As far as the constitutionality of US income taxes go, the reality is that the Constitution of the United States gives the power to interpret the Constitution basically to the US court system. And, irrespective of what words such as voluntary are supposed to mean in the English language, as well as certain protections that were intended to be granted in the US Constitution, the courts have repeatedly ruled that those who reside in the USA and have hit a certain minimum amount of income MUST file and pay taxes. Thus, whether or not they appear to be "constitutional" or not, since the courts have ruled that they are, if one resides in the USA, one needs to comply with the laws (yes, there are complex areas in the tax code, but that does not excuse one from at least making an effort to try to comply).

It is very likely that the Jews in Jesus' day felt that they had legal arguments against paying taxes Caesar, but Jesus told them to pay anyway (Mark 12:17).

Christians need to pay their taxes.

Yet, the time will come when Jesus will return and restore the government of God.  There will be no improper nor unfair taxes then.  When Jesus comes and establishes His kingdom, humankind will accept His government and the current tax burdens will be replaced by a proper tithing based system.

But until then, Christians should pay their taxes, as well as their tithes.

Thiel B. Taxes and Christians. http://www.cogwriter.com/taxes.htm (c) 2013 0402

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