The Morality of Taxation

June 8, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

A friend of mine asked me to weigh in on a question about the morality of taxation from a Christian perspective.  I usually don’t take the bait on such things.  However, I was feeling it, so I wrote him back.  I liked what I wrote (arrogant, no?), so I decided to make a blog post out of it.
Here is an edited version of the original email:

Pastor Charlie,

Its Not like you have a billion (editors note: a billion is slightly exaggerated. Maybe half billion) other things to do but I would like to get your thoughts if I may so I could discuss this a little more intelligently with my friends.

This is a interesting article that basically makes the argument that the IRS steals money from people and gives it to others and makes the case that it is immoral.  I can appreciate the point.

I was wondering if you could share some thoughts on the biblical principals with respect to this article.  Most teachings I have heard on this subject in church refer to scriptures like Luke 20:25 but when you look at it in terms of stealing from one to give to another there seems to be some sort of contradiction.

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated and confidential (unless the IRS calls then I will have to give you up. (Editors note: Rick Astley would not approve)

Here is my response.  You can be the judge as to whether or not this will help this guy speak “more intelligently or not.”
Whether or not you should pay your taxes and whether or not taxation for charitable purposes is moral are two different issues.
The Bible says you should pay your taxes, period.  Render to Caesar…  The people that asked the question to Jesus about taxation were trying to get him into the morality of the taxation.  They were two different groups.  Herodians that were loyal to Rome and the Pharisees who were not.  They disagreed on this issue but were united in their frustration with Jesus and so set a trap question.  He didn’t take the bait and didn’t address the morality of the Roman govt or their taxation.  He simply said, do what they say.  Romans 13 backs this up.  So from the perspective of the taxpayer, one must pay his taxes or is out of line with what Jesus commands us.
Now, the second issue that Walter Williams addresses is whether or not it is moral from the govt’s perspective to tax us at all, at least specifically for “charitable” purposes–distributing wealth from richer people to poorer people.  I keep my political cards close to my chest, because I want to be thought of as controversial about what I believe about God and Jesus, not politics and not both.  That frustrates some.  I will speak philosophically and biblically instead.  Walter Williams is really challenging the concept of democracy.  51% of people agreeing or 51% of representative voted in agreeing, doesn’t make something right.  Morality is found elsewhere.  I agree with that basic statement.  However, that is not limited to simply taxation.  So then our duty as American citizens is to vote on issues and representatives that we believe will represent what we believe to be the “most moral” viewpoints, while recognizing that direct democracy or representative democracy does not form the basis for our morality.
Said another way.  Is it moral to tell Muslim children from a Muslim home that they have to listen to Christian prayers at their public school? Or would it be moral for my kids to have to listen to a Mormon prayer in school in Utah?  The Constitution, specifically the Bill of Rights and then the Judicial branch are established to limit such things.  You can judge whether or not they are doing a good job or not.  Has the government been overreaching for the last several decades? There are many who would say yes and there are many who are hoping that it will reach out even further.
Finally, people then want to know if it is ever OK to justifiably rebel against the government.  Romans 13 would indicate no.  This was written during the reign of Nero who used Christians as human torches.  So it would seem that rebelling over unjust taxation is not a sufficient reason, especially since Jesus was given the opportunity to say it was, and he said the opposite.  The only example of a just rebellion was when the disciples refused to stop sharing about Jesus.  This is backed up through the history of the martyrs as well.  This should give Americans pause about the Revolutionary War that founded the country.  Not trying to be controversial, but you asked for my thoughts.
There you go.  I guess the comments will determine if I started a flame war or not.