"Business: The Biblical Case for Civil Taxation, Part 1"
by Dr. Patti Amsden
Throughout the pages of scripture, we find that God has always appointed a people that would be His representatives on the earth. Adam was created in God’s image and after His likeness (Gen. 1:26). Examination of the Hebrew words used in the Genesis narrative reveals that selem is the word translated as image, meaning a representative figure or a resemblance, and demut is the word for likeness, meaning to be like. Adam was to image God’s personhood, which he could do because he possessed God’s communicable attributes. As someone observed Adam, they would be able to see God reflected in Adam’s being in a manner that no other part of the created world could communicate. (Jn. 14:9; Ps. 19:1-3) Adam was to be like God, which he could do because he was given authority to represent God’s interest within the sphere of his assignment – the earth (Gen. 1:27-28; Ps. 8; 115:16). Adam was mandated to act like God would act, thus insuring that counsel of heaven was enacted upon the earth. Adam was God’s vice-regent or ambassador.
Although Adam failed in his assignment to selem and demut, God did not reverse His plan for man but, rather, began appointing other replacement Adams who would serve in the role of God’s representatives. The Bible reveals that God offered this role to men when he offered to them a covenant. The covenant not only restored relationship between God and His people but also identified God’s co-laborers who would carry out the call of reflecting God’s nature and representing God’s edicts upon the earth.
Early in the Biblical narrative, we are introduced to a man named Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham. God cut covenant with Abraham and informed Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, including the nation of Israel, whose assignment to selem and demut frames the majority of the Old Testament. At the introduction of the New Testament, we find that the other nations promised to Abraham come into more focus concerning the discussion of covenant. The redeemed from every nation are joined with the redeemed from the nation of Israel to make one new covenant people called the Church, which now bears the commission to image Christ and represent His Kingdom on the earth.
Covenant between God and His man/His people is the underlying theme of both Testaments – Old and New. Looking at the covenant between God and Abraham sheds good insight on the concept of covenants in general as well as the promises and obligations that are exchanged between each party in the covenant. In Genesis 15:1, God offers Abraham a covenant as He announces, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” By this covenantal language, God was offering protection (shield) and access God’s assets (exceeding great reward).
In the context of covenants, pledges were made wherein the one offering the pact and the one receiving it willingly exchanged portions of their given assets and whereby each party received a desired benefit. Abraham would doubtless profit to have God’s protection and the bounty of the Almighty. God would, by way of the covenant, secure an earthly representative who would selem and demut.
Biblical covenants are activated by paying the tithe, which is the top 10% of increase on all assets possessed by the recipient of the covenant. Abraham paid tithe in Genesis 14:18-20. The wording exchanged when the tithe was paid is extremely important. God was declared to be the “possessor of heaven and earth” and “the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand.” This verbiage is the reflective of God’s pledge to provide ‘exceeding great reward’ and ‘shield or protection’. God fulfilled his covenant promise. In response, Abraham tithed. Abraham verified his covenant promise when he offered a representative portion of his life to his covenant partner.
Further validation for the tithe, or the covenant tax, is found when God appeared to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. Genesis 28 recounts the story when God offered assets – “the land on which you lie, to thee will I give it and to thy seed” and God offered protection – “I will keep thee in all places and bring thee again into this land.” Upon God speaking ‘exceeding great reward’ and ‘shield or protection’ of covenant language, Jacob responded by saying, “of all that thou shalt give me, I will surely give the tenth unto thee.” Jacob activated the covenant by bringing into the exchange his assets. If that portion, which was God’s, would be Jacob’s then that portion, which was Jacob’s, would be God’s. Exchange is the essence of the biblical covenant.
One more reference to the covenant tax is found within the book of Malachi, which admonishes, “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse . . . and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the window of heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruit of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of host” (Mal. 3:10-11). Again the covenantal language of ‘exceeding great reward’ and ‘shield or protection’ is promised by God and is activated when the covenant recipient brings to the trading floor his representative portion, the tithe or covenant tax.
Throughout our society, contracts are the common way for business between two parties to be conducted. Each party in a contract brings determined assets and enters into a negotiation on how their assets will be exchanged. Each party gives and each party receives, and contracts are legally binding on both parties throughout the duration of the contract. Although human
contracts are limited in scope when compared to God’s covenant with man, the point that each party brings assets into the contract serves as an applicable example.
Another testimony from the business world can be gleaned when looking at fees assigned for services rendered. Consumers can request a service from a vendor. Both the consumer and the vendor sign a contract delineating the specific terms of the services and the fee structure attached. The fees serve not only as a just reward or payment for services provided but also obligate the contractor to furnish the agreed upon service. Once the fee is paid, the agreement is activated and the contractor is under legal obligation to perform the terms of the contract. In like manner – albeit again limited in scope – the tithe is likened unto the payment of the fee that activates the ‘exceedingly great reward’ and ‘shield or protection’ aspects of the services promised by God.
The tithe can legitimately be considered God’s covenant tax and, as such, provide keen insight into the biblical perspective of taxation. When the civil realm levies a tax upon its citizens, it is doing so as a covenantal exchange.