Front Page Article
"The Lenses of Reformation Concerning Income Taxes"
by Dr. Patti Amsden
The subjects of taxation and covenants are closely connected. 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 they shield, and they 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 represent Him and tend the earth for Him.
Reformation lens #1 – All earthly covenants, whether they be within the context of the church, business community, or the civil realm, should reflect the pattern found within God’s covenant with man: each party within a covenant will exchange a portion of personal assets and will receive personal benefits.
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.
Reformation lens #2 – Exchange is the essence of any covenant and God’s biblical covenant is activated by man paying the tithe.
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. The civil realm promises to provide the shield or the protection of the people from enemies outside of the nation and from criminals within the society. Inherent in the civil realm’s role is also the great reward portion; because the wealth, natural resources, and other social benefits of the nation are enjoyed by all the citizenry. For this shield and great reward, which the civil realm brings to the covenant table, the recipients or covenant partners pay a tax.
Reformation lens #3 – Civil taxation should be viewed within the context of a covenantal exchange.
Taxation is, therefore, covenantal in nature. It implies a sovereign power, who offers, and a benefactor, who receives. Biblically-speaking, all earthly sovereigns derive their power from God and answer to him in their administration of that power. Earthly sovereigns who seek to extract a covenantal tax that exceeds 10% on the increase have both claimed sovereign powers greater than God’s and have exercised power beyond biblical parameters. The New Testament admonishes that we pay our taxes (Rom 13:6); and Jesus confirmed the paying of taxes when He stated, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s” (Mt. 22:21). Although Jesus’ comments may have affirmed the power to tax and the payment of the tax, he set the giving of the tax into the context of rendering to God what God is due. God is the supreme Sovereign, and all subservient sovereigns must render to God the acknowledgement that they derive their power from Him and are accountable to exercise their administration under the jurisdiction of His providence.
Reformation lens #4 – Civil authorities must acknowledge that they derive their powers from God and are accountable to God for the administration of that delegated power, and they must understand that to tax higher than God’s covenant tax, which is 10%, is a direct affront to the throne and God’s claimant role as Sovereign Lord.
As Reformers, we recognize that the state is granted the power to use the sword and, therefore, wields a coercive power to force compliance. The biblical role between the civil and it citizens is to be reflective of the covenantal role between God and his representatives. The civil should provide the shield of protection and the shared rewards of that nation’s fiscal and social status. The people provide the covenant tax, which should be placed upon the increase of assets and should not exceed God’s covenant tax of 10%. For the civil realm to seize excessive power and privilege for itself at the expense of its citizens is tyranny and results in the people becoming slaves of the state.
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