On Taxation, The Role Of The Government, And The Poor

The problem we are seeing in our nation right now is that the rich have stopped creating jobs and are accumulating the money for themselves. That may be their capitalistic right, but that does not mean that it is a good right. As Spider-Man's maxim states, "With great power does come great responsibility." But what happens when those who have great power just shirk their responsibility and selfishly indulge in pleasures? We wouldn't be having this conversation if those with great power (not the politicians, but the wealthy who have the money) were creating jobs and sharing the wealth with those who have also worked hard for them to have that wealth.

A recent article at Business Insider illustrated this point: Sorry, Folks, Rich People Actually Don't 'Create The Jobs'
This argument [the idea that the rich create jobs] ignores the fact that taxes on entrepreneurs and investors are already historically low, even after this year's modest increases. And it ignores the assertions of many investors and entrepreneurs (like me) that they would work just as hard to build companies even if taxes were higher....So, if nothing else, it's time we stopped perpetuating the fiction that "rich people create the jobs." Rich people don't create the jobs. Our economy creates jobs. We're all in this together. And until we understand that, our economy is going to go nowhere.
When money is hoarded and not put back into the the economy, the working class suffers. In an ideal situation, the rich would just be creating jobs that pay well with good benefits. In the end, creating more wealth for themselves. What do we do when they are not? Do we really want a system where only entrepreneurs make money? History is littered with stories of the rich abusing labor for their own prosperity. Sending shooters into strikes. People dying on the job from dangerous work conditions. Destroying the environment for a profit. Who protects the laborers? Who protects the environment?

Every system would work well with good people; no system will work well with bad people. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, the church must always strive to bring redemption to all people -- including changing the wealthy into loving benefactors rather than greedy hoarders -- and continue to help and speak up for the poor and powerless.

Along with our responsibility as redeemed people, Christians should never call taxation stealing. When we speak up politically, we must be careful that we are speaking up for the issues of Jesus and not just the political paradigms that we find appealing. I know that calling taxes "stealing" is a popular phrase right now in some circles, but it is unbecoming of Christians to use it.

Jesus addressed this issue:
Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:17-21 ESV).
He was telling them that it is lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. He could have called taxes stealing if that is what He wanted to do. Instead, He told the people to pay their taxes since it was Caesar's image on the money to begin with.

If we want to dismiss the teaching of Jesus as witty rhetoric, we are then given Paul's clarification on the point:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God......Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed (Romans 13:1, 5-7 ESV).
Now, we have other passages in Scripture that show acts of civil disobedience and reveal to us that we are called to disobey the State when it is working against the will of God; however, no matter how much our political sentiments may want us to argue otherwise, taxes are not stealing. Christians need to not use that rhetoric. Even in the time of Jesus, the State would use money for immoral practices, yet both Paul and Jesus taught people to pay their taxes.

I sympathize with the argument that is made saying that the rich should not be forced to give up their wealth if they do not want to. But I also sympathize with the plight of the poor, working class. And when push comes to shove, I will side with the idea that the State should empower the poor while the Church should always do likewise. In this, a healthy State and a healthy Church should always find common ground.

Capitalism is often used as an excuse that justifies away helping the poor. The logic is that the poor have been provided with a system where they can help themselves. I don't think God cares about our excuses, even the best ones that we can come up with; He cares about the poor. I don't care what economic system/governmental system a nation has; it is our responsibility as followers of Jesus to speak up for the powerless and help them as much as we possibly can.

In the end, I just want the poor to be helped. I would love for someone to provide a solid case on how having less government in the area of worker's rights would actually help the working class. I envision an actualized libertarian reality sending us back to worker oppression and the wealthy accumulating even more wealth. The power of the powerless to switch jobs and act in a collective way that would benefit them just doesn't seem to be the reality that history records. But whatever works in providing real, tangible help to the poor, I am all for. I believe Jesus is too. Principles should never be used as an excuse to not help the poor; that's just legalism in disguise.


A good comment on Facebook was written to me in regards to this.

What is this article getting at? It was an argument in semantics. It doesn't really change anything. Does it matter if seeds plant trees or if technically its the nutrients in the soil that allows the trees to grow, or if its the birds that plant the tree, or if its God who is in charge of everything. The point is: boiling the seeds is not going to help. And metaphors break down.

Anyways. Regan, if I understand the banking system correctly, when "rich people" put their money in banks, the money goes out to other people. That's where the interest comes from. The bank is paying the individual to put his or her money in the bank so that the bank can then lend the money out to other people. Its not like the money is in a hole in the ground somewhere. It IS in the economy. That's why its earning interest.

Also, Mr. Tapinsh, coercion is defined by wikipedia as "the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner (whether through action or inaction) by use of intimidation or threats or some other form of pressure or force." You said that you don't understand how taxes can be considered "coercion." I don't understand how it could be any clearer. If you don't pay your taxes, you go to jail. Seems pretty cut and dried. The free market, on the other hand, by DEFINITION is based on voluntary exchange. Target is not going to put a gun to your head and force you to buy their products. The government, on the other hand, can and does. (As we've seen with the individual mandate).

As far as Jesus' command to "render onto Caesar," Jesus also told us to that we should "resist not the evil one" and that if anyone wants to steal our coat we should also give them our shirt. I don't think Jesus is saying that stealing people's coats is the divine right of kleptomaniacs. His focus is on what our attitude should be towards those who steal from us. Clearly we are to be doers of good, who focus on things eternal instead of things of this world. People who let others take advantage of them to advance the Gospel. But that does not mean that we should condone theft, either when individuals do it, or when coercive associates (such as governments or mafias) do it. Stealing is wrong, and we as Christian's who are able to vote, should never vote to take money from our neighbors by force. This is the opposite of what Jesus commanded of us.

Regan, you don't seem to have very much confidence in the free market. From what I have seen, it is a remarkable engine for prosperity in which the most vulnerable enjoy the most protection, because everything relies on voluntary actions. This is contrary to what most people believe about it. In my opinion, they are mistaken. But the case for the free market is too long to make here. My Dad has made some recommendations for reading already. I'll just add a couple by citing the Mises Institute at mises.org and learnliberty.org. Mises has some great works by the foremost free market scholars and learnliberty has some excellent and easily understandable short videos. Check them out.

My reply:

I wasn't addressing the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the State to collect taxes (your dad and Aleks may have moved into that discussion), although indirectly that may be an issue in the conversation. I tried to keep the conversation focused on the teachings of Paul and Jesus, but that train would not be kept on the track.

I was addressing Christians calling taxation stealing. Your dad brought up the "legitimate" discussion by hinting that if we could declare taxes illegitimate, we could get out of paying them. When we are trying to wiggle out of something that both Jesus and Paul told us to do, that shows our attitude isn't in the place that the Bible says it should be in regards to taxes. And a lot of Christians in our communities are taking a completely antibiblical approach.It's like we have learned to separate our political life from our spiritual life.

As Jeremiah said, "But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" Jeremiah 29:7 (ESV). We are to seek the welfare of the State we live in. Again, I see Christians too often attack our President and actually seem to celebrate in the possible demise of America. They love the idea and ideals of the America in their mind, but they disdain the actual America that surrounds us. This, again, is a antibiblical approach to the issue.

The problem seems to be that we place too much of our identity in our relationship with our State. We think shrinking the State or growing the State is the solution. But the State will be the State. We are just foreigners in a foreign land. Sojourners. Exiles. and Priests. We pray and help our land to prosper, but we can never do that at the expense of the poor.

I agree about the money point, but that wasn't the points I was getting at in the article (I'll get to the point in a second). However, I do wonder about the current non-local banking system. Local banks take the money they have deposited and put it back in their economy. However, I had a conversation with a local banker the other day about how keeping interest rates artificially low is causing people to pull out their money. They are probably putting it in stocks. If they put it in gold, it is definitely not helping the economy.

The idea this article addresses is the myth that if you cut taxes on the wealthy, they will create more jobs. That myth has had its fun in America since Reagan, but it is a lie. What we do once we realize that it is a lie is probably beyond my realm of teaching. I just teach that we shouldn't call taxes stealing. We should seek the welfare of the State we live in. We should love the poor and powerless, and not stop the World (including the State) when they want to do the same.

And as for my faith in the free market, I am tainted by history and experience. I love the libertarian ideas; however, I don't think they are the answer to every problem. And I say that as a person who has given money twice to two Presidential candidates who would be considered Libertarian leaning. I am fond of libertarian ideas. That isn't just lip service.

I have also been to Liberia where they barely have a government. Oppression is all around. The poor and powerless have to take the jobs that barely pays enough to feed their families, if even that, because they have no other option. And it's not just an anomaly. It feels like I'm walking through America before the government protected worker's rights. This is the common experience of humanity when the poor are not protected by those who have the power to protect them.

Someone shared this with me right before writing that. I think it is a perfect example of what our free market produces around the world.

Marcus Bleasdale's Shocking Photos Reveal the Ugly Truth Behind Smartphone Manufacturing

As one of the commenters said, "How can we, the buyers of unethically-made products, change this? Where do we start when nearly everything is made at expense to someone. Is this because of intentional ignorance on the part of production demagogues? Why is no one ever accountable for these atrocities? Is life just that unfair?"

That is what I'm concerned about to.

As long as we have more laborers than we have jobs needed, a libertarian system will always benefit the employer over the employee, at a dangerous level. That is the honest state of a free market when supply is larger than demand. That is where my confidence in the free market wains because technology has brought us to a place where we can produce the goods we need without all of the workforce being active at forty hour/week jobs. Or we can just move the work overseas where we then oppress people to make our goods, but at least we can't see that happening. The free market, as it currently is, tries to make goods as cheaply as possibly. I don't know how we move into a market where the expectation is that goods should be made as ethically as possible, but if we can do that freely, I am all in favor of it. If it can't be done freely, I will stand up for the poor being oppressed.