Every Christian is familiar with these words of Jesus (Matthew 22:21): "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." His words, of course, are true. I cannot say the same of how people use them. These words are often quoted to justify the taking by government of whatever taxes or property it sees fit. And I am sad to say that no one challenges that interpretation, because few people know their Bibles, beyond a few popular catchphrases.
Consider these words of warning from the Prophet Samuel (I Sam 8:14-15): "[The ruler] will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants." The context is the transition from the theocratic judgeships to the monarchy. Samuel was the last judge, and he was responding to the demands of the people of Israel for a king, "that we also may be like all the nations" (verse 20).
I suspect that most of us reading this are thinking something along the lines of, "I would kill for the privilege of paying only ten percent in taxes." And that is, indeed, one of the things we should see here. But notice also that it is Samuel's warning that the king would tax them ten percent. What does it say about us that we tolerate a government that taxes - income, sales, excise, tariffs - half of our income?
What is wrong with that? Again, we forget our Bibles. Do you recall the XIIIth Commandment (Exodus 20:15)? God says, "You shall not steal." Notice that he doesn't make exceptions for government. It doesn't exclude presidents, congressmen, governors, legislators, mayors, or city councilmen, much less the hordes of unelected bureaucrats with which are burdened. And that is exactly Samuel's warning: If you want a ruler who takes care of you, then you can expect that he will consume your livelihood.
Another prophet, Ezekiel, expresses the commandment explicitly to rulers (Ez. 46:18): "The prince shall not take any of the inheritance of the people, thrusting them out of their property." Wow! Imagine the society we would have if our government submitted to that command. Imagine the liberty and prosperity we would experience, if it became shameful for government to take even just ten percent of our income, and were forbidden to take our physical property. There is no "eminent domain" here! And there is no room for "Moral Monday" protesters to be claiming that government should confiscate and redistribute more of our property. And there is no exemption for tyranny by 50% plus one!
39 Articles—Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude (4)
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