Taxes and Wealth Redistribution – Part 2
Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Context: This is one of Jesus’ various teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. This same quote also appears in Luke 16:13.
Analysis: I’m listing this passage again here among the tax verses, because so many Christians are obsessed with avoiding taxes to the point that they oppose God.
Yes, it’s difficult to see a significant portion of our paychecks go to someone other than ourselves. And, yes, the government doesn’t spend all tax money wisely. But we must not let our love of money harden our hearts and distort our theology.
In recent years, I’ve heard an increasing number of Christians say, out of their hatred for paying taxes, that a national, mandatory redistribution of wealth is evil. But since God created a national, mandatory redistribution of wealth for ancient Israel, anyone who says that redistribution of wealth is evil says that God is evil.
Some might argue that our secular government doesn’t have to do it God’s way. But when we vote, our only choices are to vote for God’s way or Satan’s way. While I’ve never read the Satanic Bible (for fear of being possessed), I’ve read commentary on it. And its message is basically, “Do what you want. If you want to help others, that’s fine. But if you want to put yourself first, that’s fine, too.” Satan is pro-choice all the way, whether we’re talking about abortion and adultery or money and business. God is never pro-choice. He requires that we put others needs on the same level as our own. If we’re going to be politically involved, how can we not vote to do it His way?
Right now, many politically conservative Christians are following the master of greed, obsessed with hoarding more money to themselves and hateful toward those who long to see all people created in God’s image enjoy at least some quality of life.
Matthew 17:24-27, “When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?’ He said, ‘Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, ‘What do you think Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?’ When Peter said, ‘From others,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.’”
Context: This passage appears to be unrelated to those which precede and follow it.
Analysis: The temple tax was required of all adult Jewish men. It was needed for temple upkeep. In this story, Jesus does not oppose it, thus proving that He does not oppose taxation for the sake of the common good.
Jesus’ remark that the “children are free” implies that He should be free from paying it since He is the Son of God. Nonetheless, He pays it so as not to give people a reason to oppose Him
Acts 4:32, 34, “The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common… There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the Apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as they had need.”
Context: The Gospel catches on quickly and with great enthusiasm as the disciples begin to preach it.
Analysis: This scene horrifies American Christians who see pure capitalism as gospel, because we have in these verses the early Christian equivalent of a commune, and a commune-inspired economic system is communism.
Should we practice communism in an effort to emulate the early Christians?
First, let’s look beyond modern economic systems and examine the principals involved. The intent of these actions was to ensure that “there was not a needy person among them.” This has always been always God’s desire. The solution was that everyone in the community would give up what they had in order for this intent to become reality.
Today, our society in America is wealthy enough that we don’t have to give up everything to help those around us. But we also lack the right to keep our wealth to ourselves.
2 Corinthians 8:13-15, “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.’”
Context: Paul attempts to inspire the Corinthian church to give to less fortunate churches by referencing the overwhelming generosity of the Macedonian church.
Analysis: The last sentence of this quote allows for some to have much and for others to have little, so it does not support communism in which all people earn the same. It does, however, support a system in which the wealthy give up excessive wealth so that the poor may enjoy a quality lifestyle. In fact, all the Bible’s greed and oppression laws were given to the Israelites for this purpose. If God desired a system like this for His nation, should we not desire such a system for ours?
Why do so many Christians promote a different system, in which the wealthy have exceedingly great wealth, far beyond what any person can enjoy, while the majority of citizens work their lives away while struggling to survive, and then it’s up to the whims of the wealthy to determine who will receive charitable donations? Is it not better to have a system in which those with exceeding wealth are forced to share it in order to lighten the suffering among all those in need? God thinks it is.
Galatians 2:10, “They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.”
Context: Paul recalls meeting Jesus’ disciples at the council of Jerusalem (see Acts 15) in which they approved of his ministry.
Analysis: Jesus’ disciples could have asked many things of the Apostle Paul, but they asked only one: that he support the cause of the poor. All leaders of the early church were in agreement on this issue. Anyone who claims to be a Christian today must share the same priority.
We’ve just reviewed 96 Bible quotes that oppose greed and oppression of the poor. None of the other subjects we’ve covered received this much biblical attention. Even adultery, fornication, and homosexuality (which we haven’t covered) are only addressed a combined 64 times (approximately) in the Bible.
Despite the Bible’s emphasis on greed and oppression of the poor, most churches have opted to have other priorities. According to Compassion Magazine, a publication from a Christian charity (Compassion International) focused on releasing children from poverty, “Nearly half of all Christians went to church last year  without hearing a single sermon about the poor or the biblical mandate to help the poor.”
Wow! Half of all churches ignore the most frequently addressed sin in the Bible! Why don’t they have time to address one of God’s greatest priorities? Many of them are too busy addressing man-made religious rules or emphasizing theologies built upon solitary Bible verses. Other churches have the time, but demand that their congregations donate to the church rather than to the poor. Also, many churches tend to be one-dimensional. One church will focus nearly every sermon on evangelism. The next church will hype Christ’s imminent return, week-in and week-out. Another church will repeatedly preach that Christians must take political control of America. Yet others talk about nothing but sexual immorality. Some of these topics, like evangelism and sexual immorality, must be addressed at times, but not to the extent that the majority of God’s biblical message is ignored.