Dan Popp
Jesus' tax policy
By Dan Popp
February 6, 2012

Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right. — Abraham Lincoln

Contrast President Lincoln's humble words above with President Obama's recent claim that Jesus would endorse his redistribution scheme (and thus, we must presume, his re-election bid). What Mr. Obama said wasn't just sloppy thinking, tackiness and hypocrisy; I believe it was blasphemy. In effect, he called the Son of God a robber.

Jesus denied this charge repeatedly. "The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly." (John 10:10, NASB) "Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as against a robber?" (Matt. 25:5b)

Am I saying that all taxes are robbery? No, I am not. But targeting those who have more money, plundering them and distributing the loot in order to play the benefactor is the highwayman's job description.

Why do supposedly intelligent people keep confusing Christ and Marx?

In his campaign remarks disguised as a homily, Obama made the infantile error of failing to distinguish voluntary giving from confiscation. He realizes that he's been blessed; he is willing to give; therefore Jesus would point a sword at others and say, "Stick 'em up?" As often happens, the upside-downer has stripped a mental gear between the semicolon and the "therefore." The conclusion does not follow from the premise.

When confronted with the stark contrast between the compassion of Jesus and the coercion they want to exercise in His name, many Marxists fall back on the "Shut Up and Pay Your Taxes" doctrine based on a cursory look at Luke 20:20-25. It goes like this: Jesus taught us to pay taxes to the state; therefore any tax that the state imposes, God approves. That statement misses the mark in at least three ways. First, if we're to "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars, and unto God the things that are God's," then we can't get to Redistribution Swamp from here. As we follow the principle out, we'll have to render unto Annie the things that are Annie's, and render unto Ben whatever belongs to Ben — being careful not to render unto Cory the things that are Carrie's. The directive to "Render to all what is due them" (Rom. 13:7a) implies that each person has specific things that are due — owing, payable and appropriate — to him or her. * That's private ownership. There is no ownership in collectivism. In escaping the religionists' trap, Jesus refuted redistributive nonsense.

Second, Jesus' illustration about paying taxes even to an oppressive, pagan government is surely a general rule, close kin to the rule about obeying the civil authorities. And just as the state executions of all the Apostles showed that there are limitations and exceptions to that rule, we can expect to find exceptions here. It's easy to imagine a 100% tax, a tax specifically to fund the murder of innocent unborn children, and other noxious fines and fees that Jesus could not endorse without requiring us to participate in injustice.

But the third point is that this childish misinterpretation addresses a different issue than the one President Obama raised. When Jesus taught us to "render unto Caesar," He was answering a question about paying taxes, not laying taxes. In America, We the People are not only taxpayers; as the sovereign, we're ultimately responsible for what taxes are imposed. To the same degree that the "render unto Caesar" rule lightens the weight on the Christian citizen's conscience, it increases the burden on the government to make sure that its taxes are just, evenhanded and unoppressive. That's the opposite of the President's goal of raiding the bank accounts of certain individuals for the pretended benefit of others.

We don't have to be ignorant on the matter Mr. Obama raised. There's at least one divine precept that bears directly on this intersection of the rich, the poor and civil authority. "You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice; nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute." (Exodus 23:2,3) Did you catch that? Here it is again even more clearly in Leviticus: "You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly." (Lev. 19:15)

How simple. How obviously and completely right. How far from Obama and "social justice" mob.

Jesus says by His Spirit through the prophets that the rich have the same rights as the poor. In legal matters, neither is to be preferred — and neither is to be targeted — because of his means. The only kind of justice God recognizes is actual justice, where the rights of all are upheld equally. The only kind of "fairness" He knows is impartiality. In the Constitution, this is called "equal protection of the laws." In the Bible, both voluntary ministry to the poor (that is, mercy) and official protection of private property (that is, justice) are exactly what Jesus would do.

Unfortunately for President Obama, the question isn't How would Jesus tax, but How did Jesus tax? The problem is empirical, not hypothetical. When God (and Jesus is God) set up a system of taxation for the theocracy of ancient Israel, His taxes were proportional, not progressive — a tithe is the first tenth of whatever you grow, whether rich or poor, whether you had a good crop or a poor one. His taxes were reasonable, taking no more than 23% to fund both church and state (and most of that went to the church). His taxes were honest, not hiding from the poor their share of the burden, as our tax code does. And His taxes went only to fund legitimate functions of these institutions; there was to be no pillaging, and then buying votes with stolen property.

It appears to me that the President's envy-driven, lawless, collectivist philosophy of taxation is just about the opposite of Christ's tax policy — in every way.

* Before writing this article, I'd never thought about the connections between the words "proper" and "property," "propriety" and "proprietor." Taken together, they teach us that one of the things an owner owns is a moral right to our acknowledgement of his ownership. To put it another way, preaching collectivism is a sin.

© Dan Popp


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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