Sunday, October 5, 2014

TAXES & TAXATION


TAXES & TAXATION

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness...” Psalm 24:1a.

Introduction

The following numbered headings and accompanying comments have been designed to initiate (and hopefully stimulate) discussion among Christians on the question of taxes and taxation. The footnotes are given simply to include the thoughts and opinions of some fairly well-known Christians and Christian documents on some of the matters raised.

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all its fullness...” (Psa. 24:1a). Since God owns everything it is He who ought to be honoured for any (material) increase we receive. Therefore God’s Word needs to be searched and consulted if Christians and Christianised societies (e.g., Western nations) are ever to be obedient to our God in such matters as tax and taxation. So, “To the law and to the testimony!”

1. Is government taxation lawful?

A question very much like this was asked of Jesus. “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” (We believe the tax referred to here was a Poll Tax upon the head of every male over the age of twenty years). Jesus replied, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” Matthew 22:21. Therefore according to Jesus government taxation is lawful. David Chilton says,

The Bible does, of course, allow for some government taxation, but not much. The specific form of taxation (head tax, income tax, or whatever) is relatively unimportant, and is not set forth in Scripture; what is important is the rate of taxation, which determines the size of the state. As an absolute, outside limit, any tax of ten percent or more is specifically regarded by Scripture as tyranny – an attempt by rulers to be like God, extracting a ‘tithe’ (1 Samuel 8:15, 17). [1]

2. Is government itself lawful?

Again, Jesus in His “Render therefore to Caesar” answer legitimatised Civil Government, including government of a non-Christian kind. His Apostle who also lived under a pagan Roman government says, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no governing authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” Romans 13:1. Government or Civil Magistracy is therefore lawful because it is God appointed.
The reason God has appointed the Magistrate is for the promotion of the doing of good works and the punishment of those who practice evil. The Apostle goes on to say, “For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due, taxes to whom taxes are due.” (Romans 13:6-7a).
The compilers of the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith (which is subscribed to by today’s Presbyterian Elders, whether Teaching Elders or Ruling Elders) are given the exalted title of the Westminster Divines, and these men say in the Confession,

It is the duty of people to pray for magistrates, to honour their persons, to pay them tribute and other dues, to obey their lawful commands, and to be subject to their authority for conscience’ sake. Infidelity, or difference in religion, doth not make void the magistrate’s just and legal authority, nor free the people from their due obedience to him, from which ecclesiastical persons are not exempted.[2]

3. Separation of Church and State?

Does Jesus’ statement about giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s suggest that paying taxes to the State has nothing to do with obedience to God? In other words, does Jesus here view the State as secular (as in having nothing to do with God? Of course not!
The once upon a time Prime Minister of the Netherlands Abraham Kuyper Snr. says,

The sphere of the state itself stands under the majesty of the Lord. In that sphere there an independent responsibility to God is to be maintained. The sphere of the state is not profane. But both church and state must, each in its own sphere, obey God and serve His honour. [3]

The State is God’s minister in the civil affairs of men, but not in ecclesiastical affairs (though it should also obediently promote the church’s wellbeing by such things as tax-exemptions etc.) The word “separate” is too strong a word and has led to the idea of the separation of State and God! Therefore, though Church and State must remain distinct (rather than “separate”!) as functioning entities they both are components of one nation under God.
RJ Rushdoony says,

The nature of Israel’s civil order [i.e., as per the Bible is that] God as King of Israel ruled from His throne room in the tabernacle, and to Him were the taxes brought. Because of the common error of viewing the tabernacle as an exclusively or essentially “religious,” i.e., ecclesiastical center, there is a failure to recognize that it was indeed a religious, civil center. In terms of Biblical law, the state, home, school, and every other agency must be no less religious than the church. The sanctuary was thus the civil center of Israel and no less religious for that fact.[4]

4. Are Both Church and State Appointed By God?

Magistrates and Governors are appointed by God for the good of society.[5] The Apostle Paul says to Titus, “Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.” (Titus 3:1). Jesus says, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” Matthew 16:18b. Therefore, since both Church and State have been appointed or established by God, and are under His authority, one would expect these bodies therefore to “reflect” something of the Godhead. Hence we see Church and State members paying tributes (i.e., tithes and taxes). These bodies in turn look after the peace and welfare of the many. Nigel Lee says,

The Church-of-the-future will need to set out, also in the various inter-relationships of human society — the full implications of the Father's paternity, the Son's filiation, and the Spirit's procession. For the Church needs to distinguish the various personal attributes of the Deity ontically (within Himself) — from their application economically (within man's world).[6]

 Since both are God ordained, our con-tributing tithes and taxes to Church and State is simply part of our religious obedience to the triune God.

5. Is there a “principle” of taxation to be derived from intra-Trinitarian dealings?

God is Triune. He is the One and the Many. Nigel Lee says,

The Three Persons within God Triune Himself, interpenetrate and overlap one another — which is quite what one would expect creatures of God Triune to do. Indeed, this is what Rev. Prof. Dr. Cornelius Van Til meant by “the one and the many.” 1 Cor. 12:12-20.[7]

Therefore, as such, each Member of the Trinity con-tributes (voluntarily) from His own distinct property, to the Godhead. Therefore, “the Many” – each from His own increase and abundance – “pay tribute” to “the One”. These “tributes” include Fatherliness, Sonship, and love, honour, respect, and gratitude, etc., for each of the Others. Thus the eternal peace, and the eternal welfare, of the many is perpetually maintained and sustained by the “One” through the (voluntary) con-tribution of the “Many.”

6. How Much Tax Should We Pay?

Neither Church nor State is God. God alone is God. Therefore, we ought voluntarily to contribute our tithes and taxes because we want to be obedient to God in both these spheres. RC Sproul Jnr. says,

Old Testament Israel had a system of not one tithe, but three. The first tithe went to the Levites… [who] were not just official priests, they were also teachers, musicians, judges, and physicians. Most of the tithe, in fact, went to those who were not priests. This illustrates a principle for today: all of our tithe need not go directly to the church; other institutions need our financial support too. It may go to a Christian educational organization, a Christian hospital, or Christian missions… The second tithe… was used for a yearly festival gathering…Deut. 14:26… The third tithe was not annual, but was offered in the third and sixth years of every seven-year-cycle…known as the poor tithe…Deut. 14:20-29).[8]

Therefore the foundational reason for all our giving must be the glory of God.
The Bible early records men giving of their increase to God. Cain and Abel (voluntarily) brought offerings of their increase to God (Genesis 4:3&4). How much? We do not know. Abraham gave a tithe of all his increase of goods to Melchizedek the king of Salem and priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:20). Melchizedek was a Priest of God and the ruler of (the State) of Salem. Therefore, (though this is rather embryonic) Abraham (voluntarily) gave a tenth of his increase to both religious spheres of Church and State.
Abraham’s grandson Jacob demonstrates also a willingness to pay at least ten percent of all his increase to God (Genesis 28:22). It should be noted that Jacob’s ten percent was commensurate with the increase of his goods as God prospered him. Taking, then, Abraham and Jacob as setting the Biblical precedent for (voluntary) giving, a maximum of ten percent of our income would be the fair contribution.

7. On What Should We be Required to Pay Tax?

We are to tithe and pay tax to God out of our increase, which is to say that we ought also to pay government income tax. If we pay the State income tax, then, our tithe to the Church must come from our net earnings, not our gross. Surely then, Church tithes should be tax-exempt! State taxes, like Church tithes, ought to be based only on income. Property tax is not a Biblical norm. RJ Rushdoony says,

In the biblical law, the state has no right of eminent domain, and no right to tax the land. “It was impossible to dispossess men of their inheritance under the law of the Lord as no taxes were levied against land.” The tithe was God’s tax, not a gift to God. The state was limited to a tax resembling the tithe, a tax on increase, not on the land itself.[9]

Neither is the Goods and Services Tax the Biblical norm! However, Poll Taxes or Head Taxes are always Biblical (but are certainly not always popular!)

8. Summary and Conclusion

  • God’s Word must be the blueprint for all taxes and taxation.
  • Jesus Christ says that we are to “render unto Caesar”. Therefore, we ought to pay taxes.
  • Governments or Civil Authorities are “lawful” because they are appointed by God.
  • Though Church and State are separate, both are to be honoured as legitimate spheres of Christian religion.
  • The ‘principle’ of taxation may be derived from studying the Doctrine of the Trinity.
  • The ‘principle’ of paying ten percent of our income is Biblical.
  • Our tithes and taxes are to be paid only from our increase, i.e., income, but not on our property.
Much more could have been written above. However, it is hoped that the Christian’s “whistle has been sufficiently whetted” so that he/she will now have a greater desire to search the Scriptures to see what more has been revealed therein about taxes and taxation.

For further study see, for example:

Money, goods or labour paid to a government as:

  • Derived from people’s possessions: 1 Sam. 8:10-18;
  • Derived from the poor: Amos 5:11.
  • Paid by forced labour: Deut. 20:11.
  • Paid by foreigners: 1 Chron. 22:2.
  • Paid by all people: 2 Sam. 8:6&14.
  • Paid by forced labour: 1 Kings 5:13-17.
  • Paid by all except Levites: Ezra 7:24.
  • Paid by Christians: Rom. 13:6,7.
Taxes:

  • Used for Sanctuary: Exo. 30:11-16.
  • Used for the king’s household: 1 Kings 4:7-19.

[1] David Chilton, Productive Christians, p. 42.
[2] Westminster Confession of Faith XXIII:IV
[3] Abraham Kuyper, Christianity As A Life-System, p. 37
[4] Rousas John Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. I, p. 281.
[5] Abraham Kuper Snr. says, “God has instituted the magistrates by reason of sin.” ibid. p. 28
[6] Francis Nigel Lee, God Triune In the Beginning – And For the 21st Century, p. 3.
[8] RC Sproul Jnr., Dollar Signs of the Times, p. 108.
[9] RJ Rushdoony, The Politics of Pity, p. 326.

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