Category Archives: Government

Ten Questions, Part 2

If you missed Part 1, see it here.

What is redistribution?

Redistribution is a process by which income, wealth, and/or property are transferred from those who have more to those who have less. One can voluntarily give out of one’s own substance, which would be a charitable form of redistribution. Most often, however, the term is not used for voluntary giving, but instead for the involuntary seizing of assets by a governmental authority, who then proceeds to redistribute them to others. This is done — in theory — to “level the playing field” or to “reduce income inequality” or to “promote social justice”. These are all euphemisms for government subsidization of those it considers poor or otherwise underprivileged, using money extracted via taxation from those it considers rich or privileged. It could also be viewed as a mechanism by which politicians increase the likelihood of their continuing in elective office by taking from some voters to line the pockets of others.

What is socialism?

Socialism is a form of social organization where the means of production, distribution, and exchange are owned communally. That is, the resources of a geographic area (a nation or even the whole world) are owned collectively, rather than by individuals, families, or businesses. There would be no individual incentive to work diligently to provide for one’s needs, to increase one’s standard of living, or to accumulate wealth to pass on to one’s progeny, as one would have access to draw from the common larder. Buying and selling would be abolished and work itself would become voluntary, according to one socialist website. As can be imagined, this very likely would result in a great deal of “taking” and not a lot of “producing”. It does, however, provide a large means of control over the masses to the governments who will take “from each according to his ability” and distribute “to each according to his needs”. When one is beholden to a government for one’s daily bread, one is effectively a slave and is very likely to vote for one’s masters to keep the bread coming in the future.

Under the U.S. Constitution what should be the response of the federal government to the needs of individuals?

The U.S. Constitution defines the current form of government for our nation, whose birth certificate is the Declaration of Independence. In addition to setting out a list of grievances against an overreaching central government and affirming the right of the people to representative self-government, the July 4th, 1776 Declaration acknowledged that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among them are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Governments are instituted to preserve and protect those God-given rights, but they do not give the rights nor can they take them away – they are a part of our birthright, as we are created in the likeness and image of God. Our Constitution is a compact among the states, defining what specific powers are delegated to the national government, and reserving all other powers to the states and the people.

Among its eighteen enumerated powers in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, the national government has no capability for responding to the financial needs of individuals. By not being enumerated in the original 1787 Constitution, that power was implicitly reserved to the states and the people. And, if that wasn’t clear enough, the Tenth Amendment was added four years later to state explicitly that all powers not specifically delegated to the national government are reserved to the states and the people.

The biggest need of individuals that can be met by the national government is the need to have their rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness preserved. Their financial failures and successes are neither to be prevented nor guaranteed by the government, but their God-given rights must be secured.

One good example on the limits of government charity can be found in Davy Crockett’s “Not Yours to Give” speech, where he emphasized the value of personal charity and the injustice of the government taking from some to redistribute to others, regardless of the worthiness of the need.

What biblical principles would help the state formulate a proper response to the needs of individuals?

As we saw above, there is no Constitutional power at the federal level to meet the financial needs of individuals. I would argue that the same principle applies to states. Exacting revenue from some to then give to others violates God’s commandments against covetousness and theft, as noted above, and encourages slothfulness.

What then are the duties of a government to the people it governs?
• to not oppress the people (Ezekiel 45:8)
• to neither be violent nor spoil the people (Ezekiel 45:9)
• to execute judgment and justice (Ezekiel 45:9)
• to ease the exactions (taxation) upon them (Ezekiel 45:9)
• to use a system of just weights and measures (Ezekiel 45:10)
• to not be a terror to good works (Romans 13:3)
• to be a terror to evil, to bear the sword against evil, and to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil (Romans 13:3-4)

In contrast, let’s look at I Samuel 8. As Israel was considering moving from rule by judges to rule by a king – to be just like the heathen nations around them – God sent Samuel to warn the people of what a king would do to them:
• draft their sons into government and military service (verses 11-12)
• draft their daughters into government service (verse 13)
• take their fields, vineyards, and oliveyards and give them to his associates (verse 14)
• take a tenth of their seed and their vineyards to give to his associates (verse 15)
• take their servants and livestock and put them into his service (verse 16)
• take a tenth of their sheep (verse 17)
• make the people his servants (verse 17)

Given a set of principles for rightly governing and a set of warnings against an unjust government to come, our civic leaders would do well to model the former wherever possible and avoid the latter at all costs. That is, whether in city hall, in the state house, or in Washington, DC, our leaders would be well advised to enact just laws, to punish evildoers, to move toward a system of sound money (just weights and measures), and to roll back big government giveaway programs while allowing individuals, families, and churches to resume their roles as the supports to the needy in their communities.

Can God meet your needs?

Yes, absolutely and without question. Psalm 50:10-12 reassures us of God’s ownership of all resources on the earth He created, and Philippians 4:19 reminds us “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” As Creator and Sustainer, God has access to all we could ever need and has a willingness to provide for us.

How God chooses to meet our needs, however, is entirely up to Him. Most often, it involves our faithful service in the work to which He calls us. We have a responsibility to provide as well as we can for our own household (I Timothy 5:8), and we must also have a keen awareness of the needs of others and take advantage of opportunities to help (Galatians 6:10). And then there are times when God chooses to miraculously provide, as with manna for the children of Israel (Exodus 16:11-15), bread from ravens for Elijah (I Kings 17:1-6), and meal and oil for the widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17:8-16).

We must not neglect our responsibilities or our opportunities, simply assuming God will provide even in our slothfulness, as Jesus said, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” (Matthew 4:7) Yet we can rest in the assurance that as we walk with Him, He will be sufficient for each of our needs.


Copyright © 2014

Ten Questions, Part 1

Ten Questions

With a goal of helping to recognize our attitudes toward God and government, we briefly raise ten questions in our CD “Ten Financial Gifts You Can Give Your Children… Even in Tough Economic Times”. In that message, we do not answer the questions — we simply raise them as food for thought and leave them as an exercise for the listener. This article attempts to briefly provide our answers to those ten questions.

I would encourage you to carefully and prayerfully consider, study, and answer these questions for your own families. As our nation continues its economic descent, the principles included in your answers can help guide your family through the troubled days ahead.

What should we render to Caesar? What should we not?

When pressed on whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar – to pay taxes to the secular government – Jesus presented two key points of information. First, He asked His listeners to identify whose image and superscription was on the coin. They said simply, “Caesar’s.” Second, He gave the principle: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar’s, and unto God the things which be God’s.” This instruction is recorded in three of the four gospels (Luke 20:20-26, Matthew 15-22, Mark 12:13-17).

What had Caesar’s image? The currency of the day. So, taxation itself is lawful. What has God’s image? From Scripture, we see that people – made in the image of God – bear His image. This is recorded in Genesis 1:27 and reaffirmed in Genesis 9:6 where civil government was instituted with a prescription for punishing evildoers.

And how are we to bear God’s superscription — His words? On what should they be written? Psalm 119:11 tells us, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Mankind, being a special creation of God, bears the image of God and should hide His Word in their hearts. People – including our children – are not the property of the state; therefore the state has no legitimate claim over them. Rather than render our children to the statist schools, we should embrace our God-given roles as parents and train them ourselves (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). If circumstances prevent that, we should seek a private school that will train our children in line with God’s principles.

At what point does more taxation become an outgrowth of larceny, greed, and covetousness?

When a government extracts more from taxpayers than is needed to fund legitimate government expenditures — those allowed by its foundational documents and not violating God’s commandments — it has crossed into using governmental authority to execute theft on behalf of those coveting and then receiving the goods of others. That is to say, those receiving largesse from the government are not reaching directly into the taxpayers’ pockets to steal; rather, they are using the government as an intermediary to do the stealing and distribution on their behalf.

What are the legitimate functions of government? According to Scripture, the basic purposes of government are to encourage good and to punish evildoers — and this must be done in a way that doesn’t violate God’s commandments. The role of government is dealt with more fully below in the questions about the federal and state governments and their relationships to the needs of individuals.

A few additional points to consider… When Samuel was warning Israel against moving from a system of judges toward having a king, he warned that the king would take a tenth of their seed and produce (I Samuel 8:15). Even at the time of the upcoming famine in Egypt, Pharaoh only took twenty percent in preparation for the seven lean years (Genesis 41:34). And when King Ahab coveted Naboth’s vineyard, even he realized that he could not legitimately seize property which belonged to another (I Kings 21:1-16). Take just a moment and compare those incidents with governments in our modern era… When the people were warned against losing 10% to taxation, when a pagan monarch takes only 20% in a time of crisis, and when one of the most notorious kings in the Bible maintains a semblance of respect for private property, it really points to how far we have fallen as a once-free people.

Should other people be required to pay for my family’s food, shelter, education, healthcare, amenities, and retirement?

We are instructed in Scripture to show compassion on our brother in need (I John 3:17), to have pity on the poor and thereby lend to the Lord (Proverbs 19:17), and to do good to all men – especially those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). Caring for our brethren in need was to be one of those good works the world could see and then glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). In all these instances, however, the charity was done without compulsion; it was an act of love in service to the Father, seeking to do His will.

In addition to having compassion, however, we are to use discernment. There is a difference between the poor who are working hard yet still poor, and the slothful who sit idly and expect to be fed. We see repeatedly in Scripture where the idle soul shall suffer hunger (Proverbs 19:15), where the slothful won’t even bring his hand to his mouth to feed himself (Proverbs 19:24), and where those who will not work should not eat (II Thessalonians 3:10). At the individual level, working in our own communities, we can see people’s habits of work and stewardship, and thereby discern how to prioritize the resources we have available to help others.

When governments take by taxation and spread wealth from the “haves” to the “have-nots”, there is no discretion, no prioritization of the brethren, and no encouragement of the poor to work — there is simple subsidization of slothfulness. There is no scriptural case to be made for the government requiring anyone to pay for anything for anyone else. It is out of the government’s jurisdiction and stands in the way of people using the resources God has given them as He directs them to meet the needs of their community and reach out to others in love.

Should the rich pay more in taxes than the poor?

“Thou shalt not covet … any thing that is thy neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17) “Thou shalt not steal.” (Exodus 20:15) Even in only looking at the Ten Commandments, we can see that God respects private property rights — simply desiring the goods of another is a sin, even if no theft occurs. If you then take what belongs to another, that’s a second sin. If there was no private property, then neither coveting nor stealing would be sinful.

Much of modern politics is built upon what a majority of voters would like to see for expenditures, while assuming that someone else’s taxes will be high enough pay for it. Before the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified in 1913, there was no direct income tax; federal government expenses were paid primarily by tariffs on imported goods and occasionally by taxes levied upon the states.* As a result, federal expenses were vastly lower, as was federal power. Since the Sixteenth Amendment was passed and the federal income tax begun, it has become a tool for enshrining class conflict as a core of American life. That is, envy is encouraged, as the majority can vote for programs they cannot afford, simply because they can tax the rich at a higher rate to pay for them. The prevailing wisdom is that taking from the rich is okay, because they already “have more than they need”. This Marxist philosophy runs counter to Biblical thinking, but has proliferated in America since the early 1900’s.

In the Bible, we see uniformity in sharing expenses. In Exodus 30:12-16, God commands a half shekel atonement offering from each of the Israelites, none more, none less. In Numbers 7:11-88, the twelve tribes of Israel each offered a uniform amount of silver, gold, flour, and sacrificial animals. There was no difference between the large tribes or the small tribes, the rich or the poor — they gave equally.

Beginning at least as far back as Abraham in Genesis 14:18-20, the tithe established a uniform percentage of giving firstfruits to God. While the physical amounts given were not equal, the percentage was. There was not one rate for the poor and another for the rich; it was a flat 10%, with no deductions, exemptions, or special credits, like those the government uses to prefer one set of people — or their behaviors — over another.

As to whether the rich should pay more in taxes than the poor, the question would be completely unnecessary if we were to roll back the Sixteenth Amendment and return to funding the federal government by tariffs and an occasional tax apportioned among the states, as we did for more than half the lifetime of our country. This would have the additional benefit of shrinking government and thus restoring freedom. This would be the first option for me.

If we can’t yet go back to a tariffs-only funding model, my second choice for the interim would be a flat per-head tax. With such a system, everyone would have an equal share in government expenses, just as each person has an equal vote. It would also give people an equal incentive to hold expenses down and would, in fact, require that they be low enough that even the poorest among us could afford their shares. One person’s vote, one person’s share of legitimate government services, one person’s share of the bill.

As a third choice — and a distant third, at that — I would opt for a flat percentage that applies to everyone equally – not absolving the poor by having them pay nothing and not penalizing the rich by having them pay a higher percentage. Thus there is no incentive to earn less and get subsidized, and no disincentive from earning more and getting bumped into a higher tax bracket.

* One caveat – During the Civil War, there were ten years of an unconstitutional income tax on individuals.

If 51% of the people in this room vote to take your purse or wallet and divide its contents among themselves, does that make it right?

As we just saw in the answer above on the rich paying more than the poor in taxes, God established and recognizes private property rights, even including them in the Ten Commandments. Simply put, thou shalt not covet and thou shalt not steal. Whether taking one’s substance by violence (Proverbs 1:10-19) or by democratically voting and assuming control over another person’s purse, the end result is the same — coveting and then taking property from its rightful owners.

I would argue that the same principle applies regarding taxation, whether that is the income tax at the federal and state levels or the property tax at the local level.

That is — if 51% of the people desire to fund entitlements, certain medical procedures or medications, interventionist military occupations, leftist-leaning public schools, or other things you may find morally or Scripturally inexcusable (or simply unworthy of your hard-earned dollars), by what authority can that 51% appropriate your God-given substance and use it to fund those activities you oppose? They can seize it simply because we have lost much of our Christian heritage and have moved from being a God-honoring republic to becoming a secular democracy where mob-rule is lauded and exported around the world.

Just because the current system is legal does not make it right, and we should work within what legal means we have to help effect a restoration of a more God-honoring system of government. That may involve voting, lobbying legislators, educating others who may be ignorant of our heritage or Biblical principles, and raising the next generation of voters to carefully consider the size and scope of government from a Biblical worldview.

Continue with Ten Questions, Part 2


Copyright © 2014

The Initiative-Stripping Power of Taxation

As twenty-first century Americans, we labor under enormous levels of taxation and witness the preferential application of those taxes to some people, groups, and businesses, while others are spared.  Both taxes and subsidies have consequences and are used by government to shape citizens’ behavior.  A taxed activity becomes less desirable and thus less common, while a subsidized activity becomes more attractive.  The higher the tax rate, the less attractive any given activity becomes.  When the burdens of taxation cause more pain than a person is willing to bear, he or she will make a change to reduce that pain — whether that means moving a business, closing it down outright, selling property that has become too over-taxed to keep, or leaving the job market rather than keep working for a fraction of what is really earned.

What do I mean by working for a fraction?  Simply look at any given paycheck.  Before you ever see it, the federal government requires your employer to withhold your Social Security tax (6.2%); in theory they are putting it away for your retirement in a “trust fund” or in a “lock box”.  Unfortunately, they don’t actually save it for you — it’s already been spent by the time it reaches Washington.  Future Social Security payments will be funded by future workers’ contributions, not by anything set aside from what you sent in.  In addition, your check is missing the 1.45% for Medicare.  You may believe that’s withheld and set aside to provide your future healthcare at the time you start receiving your Social Security-based retirement payments.  But however altruistic the intent might sound, they aren’t saving that for you either.  They’re using it to pay today’s bills, and you’ll be relying on future workers to pay the bills when you retire and get sick.

Along with Social Security and Medicare taxes, your Federal income tax gets withheld, ranging from 10 to 35% (depending on your income).  Maine state income tax takes from 2 to 8.5% (again, depending on your income).  If you’re self-employed, then you get an extra tax of 7.65% to make up for the Social Security and Medicare portions that an employer isn’t sending in on your behalf.  So, that looks like anywhere from 17 to 58% of your money has been taken from you before you ever see it.

Does that seem like a reasonable amount?  Even during Egypt’s great famine, when the people sold everything they had to Pharaoh — including themselves as slaves — they only had to give 20% to Pharaoh [Genesis 47:20-26].  When the Israelites demanded a king rather than judges, Samuel warned them that they would lose 10% to the demands of the king [I Samuel 8:11-18].  Yet, somehow we think that 17 to 58% is normal and reasonable in a “free” society?  At least the state and federal governments have left you between 42 and 83% of your own money, right?  Sadly, no.

Before you spend anything of what’s left, it’s necessary to start saving up to pay the property tax that will be due within the year…paying for the privilege of keeping the land you already own.  If you think your property tax is too high this year, you could pick up your phone to call the town office and complain, but the telephone company adds roughly 30% to your phone bill for various taxes and government-mandated fees.

Instead of calling, you could drive down to the town office to complain…except that you need to be licensed by the state, and using your car requires you to pay a yearly excise tax, as well as get a state-mandated inspection and a state-approved insurance policy.  You’ll also need gas to get there, which includes nearly 50 cents per gallon for state and federal taxes.

If you’d rather skip the taxes for the phone and the car, you could just walk to the nearest store to buy a pad of paper and a box of envelopes; then you could put your over-taxation concerns in writing.  You can’t escape taxation there either, though — your envelopes and paper just cost an extra 5% for sales tax.  If you find a better deal for your writing supplies online and decide to place an order, then the state will be more than happy to charge you “use tax” when you file your yearly income tax, simply for the privilege of using items in Maine that you bought elsewhere.

At this point, it might be tempting to just accept the status quo and decide that complaining would only subject you to further taxation.  What better way to unwind than to just walk back to the store, buy yourself a sandwich, and sit down in the sunshine and relax?   Relaxation is fleeting, however, when you realize that your sandwich just came at a 7% premium because the state government wants to penalize you for buying prepared foods.  The soda you bought with your sandwich also required an extra 5 cent deposit because the state doesn’t think you’ll recycle the bottle unless they hold your nickel hostage.

Having witnessed just some of the taxation — which now touches nearly every aspect of life — it seems all that’s left is to stay home and save your money.  Although, if you keep it in the bank and earn any interest, it’s taxable as income.  If you put it in other investments (real estate, stocks, precious metals, etc.), you’ll get to pay capital gains taxes.  You might be able to hide your cash in your mattress, but with the Feds’ printing presses rolling out more dollars, government-driven inflation will shrink your hidden dollars’ value every year.

What is the solution?  Be as free as you can today, while fighting for your children to be more free tomorrow.  Avoid debt.  Do not depend on the government for services that should be in the jurisdictions of family, church, and local community.  Learn Biblical principles and how they influenced early American history and our Founders’ vision.  Realize how far we have fallen as a people.  Vote for leaders who love liberty and embrace the Christian principles that were central to the country’s founding.  And pray that the hearts of the American people will turn to God in a mighty way, relying on Him for their protection and provision.


Copyright © 2013