Government and Paying for the Poor - Part One

posted Aug 2, 2013, 7:09 AM by Willie T. Butler   [ updated Aug 2, 2013, 8:13 AM ]
(Originally Published | October 26, 2010)

This article was written in response to a question posed on another Christian blog called Christian PF.com.   While their original question references a key question on the minds of so many Americans today, and since this question is one I too have been attempting to address in my upcoming book, Kingdom Life Planning—I thought I would share some thoughts which, in my view reflect a Kingdom perspective on the issue.   Based on the length of my response, I have divided this into a two-part article.

I invite you to reply on this and any other issue which should be discussed from a kingdom perspective, and I invite you to check us out at www.kingdomseedfoundation.com.

Whose Job, Is It Anyway:  Church or State? – (Part One)

If you are like me, then you should be growing tired of the same old arguments that today’s elected politicians and opposing candidates are making about Washington and government spending.  Whether you are a political-party hardliner or an Independent, fact is every politician wants to win even though some lack knowledge of their issues or worst, never had their constituent’s best interest at heart.

So as you go to the polls this November to exercise your Constitutional right to vote, I strongly encourage that you look beyond the party-affiliation of a candidate and try to understand the issues in a way that matters to you personally.  Only then should you cast a vote for the candidate who best embodies your personal view, and not because some paid political advertisers and campaign strategists attempt to coax you into making wholesale selections.   As citizens of two kingdoms, we have a different standard to uphold beyond mere party loyalty.  This is true no matter the issue.   

“Should the government take from the rich to give to the poor?”

A major controversy facing our nation today has to do with the size and role of our federal government.   Depending on whose report you believe, it would seem that government has grown too big which some say implies it has become too intrusive in the lives of average Americans. And some even argue that government has become much too expensive to maintain.  This is somewhat ironic as Pulitzer Prize winning economist, author and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote on October 10, 2010.   According to Krugman, “the whole story is a myth.”  Not only did governments throughout the nation not increase in the past few years, instead, according to Krugman, despite all the disinformation from politicians and their rivals, “The total number of government workers in America has been falling, not rising, under Obama…and, Total government payrolls have fallen by more than 350,000 since January 2009.”

As we all know, to pay for bigger government Americans are asked (and legislatively tasked) to pay higher taxes, although that is not the point of contention in 2010 except among the wealthiest two-percent of our population: those earning $250,000 or more annually.  In this matter another controversial subject has surfaced, that of whether the wealthy pay more than they should, and whether government should impose even higher taxation on the rich.

This article attempts to address each of these issues from a Kingdom perspective.  The two key questions we will examine are what role does government have in providing services to those unable to care for themselves … and who among us should pay for them?

Because there are many biblical references with significance to the role of government and whether redistribution—which seems to imply socialism to some—is both biblical and the responsibility of governments, I want to begin with the most important premise of all.  It is found in Psalm 24:1 and says that “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein.”  After all, no matter what man thinks or does under the guise of our Constitution or by judicial fiat, God says that He owns it all.

Tax Collection- Who should pay?

As stated there are two issues of consideration about government that we will examine using Scripture.  The first involves government’s role as described in Romans 13.  Specifically, in this verse, God establishes government—or “governing” civil authority—with two clearly defined responsibilities: 

(1) Protect those who do good (that is, abide in God’s law); and,
(2) Punish those who do evil or commit wrongdoing.  

In Romans 13:1 it clearly states, “LET EVERY person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God [by His permission, His sanction], and those that exist do so by God's appointment.  

And, it goes on to state in verse 2, “Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged [in divine order]. And those who resist will bring down judgment upon themselves [receiving the penalty due them].”

Verse 1 of this decree establishes that God ordained all “governing [i.e., governments and civil] authority.”   And within this construct the Lord further defines what government is tasked with as part of their general role.  Then in verse 4 God reasserts government’s authority when He says that “he is the minister of God to thee for good.  But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid: for he beareth the sword in vain.” 

Now, for our second issue of consideration, let’s look at verse 6 which says “For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. This establishes that taxation or a levy was imposed by God because it is His way of paying for the duties performed by His “governing” ministers.   Of particular significance to me is the reference to “tribute” as the tax or levy imposed on all citizens.  Why?  Because this is the same way that the Church was tasked with establishing its own form of tribute called the tithe.

This particular subject remains controversial among Christians of different denominations, non-denominations and religious cultures.   Nonetheless, similarity cannot be overlooked.  In the Book of Exodus, God established from among the nation of Israel ministers to oversee His spiritual affairs, just as government ministers were established to oversee His civil affairs.  And in order to pay for the required religious duties assigned the Levitical Tribe, God imposed the Tithe, which some Christians, theologians and biblical scholars may dismiss as essential to the Churches’ collection of the Temple Tax, as found in Exodus 30:13-16.

One could rightly argue that the earliest accounts of tithing are found in Genesis and that New Testament teachings do confirm the ongoing requirement to tithe to the Church as ancient Israel was required to do in the Old Testament.  Since we are not attempting to address this argument but simply using it as reference, I will leave the matter to each person to consider.  My hope is that you see that taxation upon all peoples in the Old Testament era is clearly shown to have existed in both the religious [i.e., Church-related] and civic [or government-related] institutions of this nation.    

After all, God chose to separate these spheres (or institutions) of influence and conferred authority after liberating Israel from four-hundred years of Egyptian bondage.   At some point during their exile and after Moses returned from Mount Moriah with God’s Law, God thought it necessary to remove from him some of the daily responsibility for both ceremonial and civil duties.  Instead, God established Moses’ brother Aaron as spokesperson before Pharaoh and to serve as High Priest.  And, He established the Sons of Levi to serve a His priestly order; and He also allowed Moses to establish governors [and judges] to rule within designated jurisdictions over civil affairs of state. 

So what does this mean to you?  It means that as One Nation under God, we need to remember the origin of government starts with God’s declaration that “governing [civil] authority” exists by His authority and for a specific purpose.  And we need to recognize that part of that authority involves a duty of its citizens to obey the laws established by government, including paying tribute [or taxes] as so directed.  Accordingly, the duty to impose and collect taxes and our duty to pay taxes is irrefutable.  What remains, however, is whether certain legislative rulings are reasonable given the fact that they establish what some term “welfare benefits” for the poor and, of course, who should pay this tax?

Our issues remains, therefore, whether it is fair for the wealthy to pay more in taxes than anyone else?   To briefly address this question I refer to another Old Testament practice in the Nation of Israel which was for the “spoils of war” to be shared with the Levites, which meant that a portion was designated to become God’s share.  It is believed to have been customary that a tenth of the spoils went to the priest for their inheritance and as a sacrifice or official offering to God.   Remember, it all belongs to the Lord (Ps. 24:1) but God chose that His portion of all increase go to the Levites.

The spoils of war opens another topic for close consideration as they were always shared with the temple priests who consecrated them before the Lord, and who had responsibility to see to the cares and needs of the people, generally, and the poor, widowed and orphaned specifically. 

So, responsibility to make sure that all of Israel was cared for, particularly the poor, the sick, the fatherless and the widow, fell on the Levitical priests to oversee.  And since this common action occurred before a governing [civil] authority was established, it has been inferred that the duty to care for those with needs is a Church responsibility when in reality there was only one convening authority in their earliest years as a nation that combined both spiritual and civil duty.   After four-hundred years in exile even what was once an established ordering of duties had to be reestablished among people with no history or experience of same, at least not without Egyptian oversight.

Should the Rich Pay More?

Consequently, there were civil laws established which specifically instructed on the responsibility of all Israelites:  the wealthy who were landowners, business owners, etc. and the poor to pay tribute as stated in Exodus 30:13-15:

(13) "This they shall give, every one that passes among them that are numbered, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs): an half shekel shall be the offering of the Lord.

(14) Every one that passes among them that are numbered, from twenty years old and above, shall give an offering unto the Lord.

And here is the key point regarding whether the wealthy should bare a greater share of responsibility to care for the poor:

(15) The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel, when they give an offering unto the Lord, to make atonement for your souls.

So, as you can see, those ages twenty and older were required to pay the Temple Tax but also note here that God specified that “the rich pay no more than a half a shekel, and the poor pay no less.  It signifies to me that God was not asking the wealthy to pay higher taxes because they were rich but rather an equal share.

Part Two will be posted next week and address whether our tax system is fair...