I paid taxes for the first time when I was sixteen. I paid my “tithes” at the age of twenty-six. I’ve been looking forward to a time be without them ever since. Neither taxes nor tithes.
No one likes taxes. After death, taxes are the most hated part of life. Among Believers, tithes are a hot topic. No two Christians think alike. Between taxes and tithes, we have perhaps summed up the bane of most people’s existence.
Although taxes happen to everyone, tithes are not as universal. These topics are heavily debated in the Bible. In the Old Testament, Malachi 1 asks the question: “Are we robbing God”? In the New Testament, the Pharisees ask the question, “do we have to pay both”(Mat 22:15-22)? Ask most pastors and you’ll get a double affirmative; ask a layperson and you’ll find lots of space for debate.
As for Tithes
Full disclosure: I don’t tithe. As for taxes, I try limiting those as well. Let me give some context. Tithing is of the Old Testament. Anyone still bound by the Law tithes. Thankfully, I am not bound. My Bible teaches me that I am part of a Royal Priesthood. Some would argue that Jesus favored tithing. The Text and His teachings point elsewhere (Mat 17:25-27).
Exemption as Sons
We have become children of God through adoption (Gal 4). We are no longer strangers but heirs. Earthly kings don’t tax their own children. They tax strangers. How much more does God not tax His own! At best, I am to receive tithes on behalf of the Father. Levites didn’t own land to tithe from: their tithe came from the tithes that the people gave them (Numbers 18:21-32). As far as taxes, Levites only paid Temple tax. The Davidic kings never taxed the priesthood; they were set apart unto the Lord. The poll taxes applied to the general population only.
Lady Tremaine’s Tutelage
Unfortunately, tithing has been used for centuries to shame Believers into submission. In a myriad of ways, intentionally misleading or genuinely uninformed church leaders have made Christians of every denomination feel as if they had robbed God! Imagine having something of worth that God could possibly want from you! Many critics of the Church point to the atrocities committed towards unbelievers. Upon closer look, greater violence transpired towards Believers. Where the Bible calls us sons and heirs and exempt, the Church took on the role of Cinderella’s stepmom. Whatever our Father left us as inheritance was quickly confiscated and reallocated.
The poster child for such violence was the Catholic church. In the form of the Papal States, Popes, bishops, and other church dignitaries lorded it over Believers to conform to their every whim. This is not an attack on the Catholic church. Rather the men that comprised its hierarchy. They taxed the poor to death with no sign of Christian mercy. All too often the richest and most powerful landowners in medieval Europe were members of the clergy. Very Jesus-like!
As for Taxes
While many think that the Pharisees only exist in Judaism. I disagree. The Pharisaical spirit is alive and well in the Church today. Similarly, the same machinations that brought the learned of Jesus’ day to hide behind empty adherence only to the Word still drives many in the modern Church.
As we have said before, everyone hates taxes. In a perfect world, we would have neither taxes nor tithes. By the wonder-working power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we have been freed from the yoke of the tithe. But what will free us from the yoke of taxes? Not your accountant.
Give unto Caesar
In all fairness, Pharisees and penny-pinching Believers aren’t the only ones trying to skirt the system. Our modern capitalist western world is based on everyone being free to produce and keep what they profit. Nevertheless, their is a cost to capitalism. How much should a good government cost an average citizen? I would like to propose that it was in this spirit that the Pharisees asked Jesus the infamous question, “it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar”?
The Pharisees’ motives were not well-intentioned. However, there is more room for growth here, I believe. No one wants to pay taxes! Some claim that it’s “patriotic” and the “right thing to do”. That may very well be. However, in my own selfish calculations, as a Citizen of Heaven exempt by God Almighty Himself from tithing, what power does a secular authority hold over me to separate me from my hard-earned money? Let’s examine.
It is plain for all to see that the cost of government keeps going up. As of 2018, the average American needs to work until April 19th just to pay off his tax burden. Taxes go beyond tithes and cost us between a quarter and a third of our income. This is called Tax Freedom Day. This obviously varies by state and has changed over time. The most recent numbers are no better. Americans are having to work well into the second week of May to pay for the burden of government. Compared to other countries, Americans are golden. In fact, it would appear that Europeans are all de facto government employees since many of them keep less than 50% of what they make.
When Christians consider how often tax money gets spent on morally objectionable endeavors it is no surprise that we try to find loops and cracks and crannies to avoid the “Man”. Perhaps the most objectionable earmark is abortion. While Christians are busy preaching “life more abundant” to the world, the government is shoulder deep in blood guilt of 56 million children.
And a child shall lead them
Nonetheless, there is hope. In part 2 we will discuss the unimaginable future that awaits Believers. Regardless of the ideology brought forth to justify this Judaism-lite form of Christianity to what “legitimate” governments did with our tax money, change is coming. Redemption is coming. The “promise land” is near. The Millennium Reign of Jesus Christ will usher in an eternity free from the bondage of slavery to sin, an end to the impossibility of justification by the Law, and an existence where God-given potential is stifled by the fickleness of men. It will finally be an existence free from limits. Neither taxes nor tithes!