How much tax is too much tax? Does the Bible furnish any instruction concerning this issue? In other words, does the Word of God by example or teaching give us any idea when the state has exceeded its authority to tax its citizens?
Well, when Israel asked for a king, God instructed the prophet Samuel to warn them concerning the behavior of kings. He said, These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day (1 Samuel 8:11-18).
One might imagine Lord Acton had Samuel's warning in mind when he famously said "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Anyway, according to the Bible, one of the ways we know the king (or state), has become a tyrant is when the level of taxation reaches ten percent. Why? Because only God is entitled to ten percent of our increase. Any civil government that taxes at the same rate as God is a usurper. Any State that equals or exceeds a ten percent tax rate is putting itself in the place of God and is guilty of confiscatory taxation.
We live in a day when standing armies, bureaucratic hordes, the military-industrial complex, uncontrolled eminent domain and oppressive tax rates are the norms. Thus we read Samuel's warning and smile at his quaint notions of good government. Yet, these are not merely the words of a cranky old prophet, these are the words of God. Therefore we cannot ignore the fact that what Samuel describes has application in our day. Clearly we are living under a tyranny. We are subject to a total combined tax rate that far exceeds ten percent - not to mention the other despotic practices listed by Samuel.
Some may suggest we should consider the taxation of the national, state and local governments individually. In other words, if each level of government keeps their tax rate under ten percent then all is well. Yet, even if we approach the issue this way it is clear our various civil governments have become the new pantheon of humanistic gods, with the federal regime as the supreme being. Property tax, sales tax, income tax, social security tax and so on; they all add up to tyranny as defined by the Bible.
There was a time in our history when the citizens of this land would not have stood for this. It was a time when the embryonic nation was thoroughly Christian and a few pennies of tax on a pound of tea were considered reason for revolt.
There is no indication our circumstances will improve in the near future. So, what is a Christian to do? Is it time for a second American Revolution? This will be our topic of discussion next week.
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