A Christian’s Attitude at Tax Time

What would you call it if a person walked up, pointed a gun at you, and demanded your money?

Robbery.

What if three guys did it? Would it be something else?

Of course not, it’s still robbery.

Okay, but suppose you live in a town of 100 people and 75 of them got together and agreed to send three guys to your house with guns to take your possessions. What’s that?

Robbery. C’mon!

Well, how many of them would have to get involved before taking your stuff was justified? 80? 90? 99? What?

That’s silly. It doesn’t matter how many people agree to steal my stuff — it’s still robbery.

What if they gave you a vote?

Doesn’t matter.

But suppose they came and took your possessions and, after pawning it off, took the proceeds and fed some hungry people in the neighborhood. Would that justify their actions?

Of course not, robbery is robbery regardless of what you do with the stolen property.

All of those scenarios were robbery — and easily understood as wrong — yet we blindly accept this kind of robbery in America every day. Many of us enthusiastically support it.

We just call it taxes.

The federal government of the United States — the worst offender — confiscates huge portions of our money every year and gives it away based upon their discretion. And, should we refuse to pay, the “authorities” would eventually show up at our door to take our money or our freedom by force. We are robbed, quite literally, at the point of a gun.

Now, I know what many of you are probably thinking… the Bible tells us to always submit to the government. No. I contend the Bible tells us to render to people what is legitimately theirs and to submit to legitimate authorities. You see, everything that Caesar claims is his is not his. And, when you boil it all down to the basics, most taxation is, in fact, the same thing as theft. A majority vote does not justify it.

So, why draw this comparison at all? Because it’s tax time in America and many of us have become conditioned to think it is our “patriotic duty” to fork over our hard-earned money to the ones holding a gun on us.

It’s really no different than a mob boss sending thugs around the neighborhood collection protection money. The mob boss wants you to pay for services you neither asked for nor needed. And, he is prepared to use force and intimidation to make you “accept” his services.

The federal government is just like this. The Internal Revenue Service is a master at intimidation and is dispatched every year at this time to collect money from us for services we neither asked for nor need. In fact, most of us have voiced our objection to these “services” over and over again — the propagandized “Affordable Care Act” being the most recent and egregious example.

But, this sort of extortion is nothing new. It might be comforting to know that people throughout history have had to deal with this sort of thing.

Augustine of Hippo, a Christian theologian and apologist who lived in the 4th and 5th centuries, commented on this very thing in his book, the City of God

“Remove justice, and what are kingdoms but gangs of criminals on a vast scale? What are criminal gangs but petty kingdoms? A gang is a group of men under the command of a leader, bound by a compact of association, in which the plunder is divided according to an agreed convention. If this villainy wins so many recruits from the ranks of the demoralized that it requires territory, establishes a base, captures cities and subdues peoples, it then openly arrogates to itself the title of ‘kingdom,’ which is conferred on it in the eyes of the world, not by the renouncing of aggression but by the attainment of impunity. For it was a witty and a truthful rejoinder, which was given by a captured pirate to Alexander the Great. The king asked the fellow, ‘What is your idea, in infesting the sea?’ And the pirate answered, with uninhibited insolence, ‘The same as yours, in infesting the earth! But because I do it with a tiny craft, I’m called a pirate; because you have a mighty navy, you’re called an emperor.’”

So, why even bring any of this up? Because, as Christians we need to understand that wicked men will always try to plunder what they can, whether they wear the title, “emperor” or “pirate,” “mob boss” or “president.” From time-to-time all of them step beyond their legitimate authority and engage in criminal behavior. And when they do we need to stop pretending that one is any better than the other. None of them are worthy of our devotion and loyalty.

PiratePistolBut, there is one who is. One who harbors no ulterior motive and no hidden agenda. One who is righteous, holy, and worthy of our loyalty. One whose kingdom is enduring and eternal.

Only One.

And it is to His Kingdom we need to turn our attention.

So, where does this leave us on the question of the proper attitude toward taxes? Should we pay them or not? Should we only obey governments that are legitimate? Should we always resist governments that are illegitimate? What do we do?

It depends on what will bring glory and honor to our King.

Sometimes it honors God to defy the illegitimate laws of men, just as the apostles did when they refused to obey the order of the Sanhedrin to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. Sometimes it honors God to comply with an illegitimate law — and Scripture provides the perfect example…

“So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man!’ When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.’ The Jews answered him, ‘We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.’ When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, ‘Where are you from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, ‘You will not speak to me? Do you now know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?’ Jesus answered him, ‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.'” — John 19:5-11

If ever there was a situation where a government had zero authority over someone it is when Jesus stood before Pilate. Christ is the supreme lawgiver — holy and righteous. He is the rightful judge of all those who judged him and yet he allowed himself to be placed under their power — subjecting himself to sinners. Why?

Obedience.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” — Philippians 2:5-8

Those men had no right to judge Christ, but Christ was not concerned with his own rights. He was not concerned with the injustice of his situation. He was concerned only with the glory of his Father in heaven.

John recorded an instance where Jesus taught his disciples about his purpose.

“I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” — John 14:30-31

Note that Jesus points out the “ruler of this world” has no claim on him yet he is going to do as the Father has commanded so that “the world may know” that he loves the Father.

Jesus was sent to this earth for a purpose. Not to defend his own rights against an unjust empire, but to accomplish the will of his Father. Likewise, we are saved for a purpose. Not to defend our own rights against a wicked and sinful generation, but to accomplish the will of our Father. Illegitimate governments and the wicked men who run them have no claim on us — but we do as the Father has commanded.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” — Ephesians 2:10

We need to remember that God’s will for us is that we always bring glory to Him. And that should be our guiding principle in life.

crownIn fact, we should rarely, if ever, concern ourselves with the legitimacy of earthly laws. If they are legitimate then they will be completely consistent with God’s higher law and our obedience to them will stem from our obedience to God. If they are illegitimate we may or may not be obedient to them — depending on what will glorify our Father in heaven.

 

Concerning America’s “National Day of Prayer”

Dan Phillips weighs in.

Hail Caesar

Not long after the ascension into heaven of our Lord Jesus Christ, things in the Roman world got very dicey for His followers. A time came when Roman soldiers could demand anyone pay homage to Caesar at any time.

centurion“Pay homage to Caesar,” a soldier would demand.

The person to whom the soldier made the demand would take a pinch of incense, throw it into a tiny alter fire and declare, “Kaiser kurios,” — “Caesar is Lord.”

Understand this was not merely an affirmation of Caesar as the head of state. It was a declaration of Caesar’s divinity and an oath of allegiance to Rome. This, of course, was something Christians could not do. They had one Lord and one allegiance, so frequently their response was, “Iesous kurios,” — “Jesus is Lord.” And the immediate reward for their faithfulness to Christ was an execution.

We look at an example like that and shudder. How could a society descend into such depravity?

Gradually, my friends.

Very…

… gradually.

You see, the Roman Empire was not always like this. In fact, at its inception it was a republic — embracing many principles of democracy and liberty. Caesar was not always an emperor. He started out as just the head of an executive branch of government in Rome. The Roman senate was where the real power was. But, over time, more and more power gravitated to the executive. The Caesars began to do things they really didn’t have the authority to do. And, since no one had the courage to stop them, their accumulation of power continued.

To say the Caesars began to think more of themselves than they ought is a gross understatement. Julius Caesar allowed himself to be worshipped as a god. He didn’t demand it, mind you. But he didn’t discourage it, either. There were inscriptions across the Roman Empire that declared Caesar Augustus to be “Son of God.” Caligula took it a step further and demanded to be worshipped as god. Nero claimed to be divine and Domitian took the title “lord and god.”

And many Christians living in the United States will read this historical account and regurgitate the hollow platitude we’ve heard for years — “I’m glad we live in a free country. Nothing like that could ever happen here.”

caesar1I’m sure that’s what the Romans thought, too. But, like the frog sitting in the pot on the stove, they didn’t jump out because the heat was raised ever so slightly — to boiling. Of course we have the benefit of history. We can look at their failure and make some determinations. At what point should they have rejected Roman idolatry? Was it when the power started accumulating at the throne of Caesar? Was it when Caesar allowed people to refer to him in divine terms? Was it when Caesar demanded to be worshipped? When?

Look around you. The heat is being turned up.

Power has been accumulating in the Oval Office for decades. The United States Constitution requires Congress to make laws and yet presidents have taken quite a shine to issuing imperial decrees in the form of “Executive Orders.”

Presidents have long been regarded as something more than they ought. But we’ve crossed a real line with the most recent occupant of the Oval Office. Consider…

  • Maggie Mertens, associate editor of the student newspaper Smithsonian at Massachusetts’ Smith College, wrote, “Obama is my homeboy. And I’m not saying that because he’s black — I’m saying that in reference to those Urban Outfitters t-shirts from a couple of  years ago that said, ‘Jesus is my homeboy.’ Yes, I just said it. Obama is my Jesus.”
  • The Dutch newspaper Politiken, in an article praising socialized medicine, said, “Obama is, of course, greater than Jesus.”
  • Newsweek editor Evan Thomas, during an interview on MSNBC, said, “I mean in a way Obama’s standing above the country, above – above the world, he’s sort of God.”
  • Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan said when Obama talks, “the Messiah is absolutely speaking.”
  • During the 2008 presidential campaign Obama, himself, said, “A light will shine through that window, a beam of light will come down upon you, you will experience an epiphany, and you will suddenly realize that you must go to the polls and vote [for Obama].”
  • Florida A&M professor Barbara A. Thompson wrote a book entitled, The Gospel According to Apostle Barack. In it she claimed to have been told by God to “go on a journey with Apostle Barack.” In her account of this she said, “[A]s I began to contemplate ways to assist Barack in his 2012 re-election bid, something miraculous happened. I felt God’s Spirit beckoning me in my dreams at night. Listening, cautiously, I learned that Jesus walked the earth to create a more civilized society; Martin (Luther King) walked the earth to create a more justified society, but, Apostle Barack, the name he was called in my dreams, would walk the earth to create a more equalized society for the middle class and working poor. Apostle Barack, the next young leader with a new cause, had been taken to the mountaintop and allowed to see over the other side. He had the answers to unlock the kingdom of ‘heaven here on earth’ for his followers.”
  • After Obama’s re-election, Newsweek published a cover with him in profile and the headline, “The Second Coming.”

SecondComingCoverI realize many will say all of this is mere rhetoric. It’s hyperbole. It’s harmless.

No, it’s not.

It’s blasphemy. It’s idolatry. It’s statism. It’s the kind of thing that ought to turn the stomach of any believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. And the longer we go without recognizing it for what it is, the more we become conditioned to regard it as harmless. Until one day we wake up and find we have a president who demands to be worshipped.

And, lest you think I am picking on the president because he is a liberal or a Democrat, allow me to point out the vast majority of my criticism for engaging in state worship has been directed squarely at the more conservative-leaning Americans (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).

My whole goal here is to appeal to all Christians, regardless of ideological persuasion, to recognize and reject the temptation we all have to elevate our country to the point of idolatry. Consider the LORD’s instructions to Moses after the Israelites defeated Amalek at Rephidim.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” And Moses built an altar and called the name of it, The LORD Is My Banner… — Exodus 17:14-15

Understand the significance of the name, “The LORD is My Banner.” The banner of any people was the thing around which they rallied. It was their focal point. It was their entire identity. From their banner a people draw their worth.

Dear Christian, you belong to Christ. The LORD is your banner. In Him you should find your entire identity. Rally around Him. Focus on Him.

All of the divine rhetoric being heaped upon Barack Obama should be an affront to us. But we should also thank God for it, for it serves a wonderful purpose. It makes it much easier for us to recognize the distinction between false gods and the One, True God. We have the remarkable privilege of knowing this now. There are many who won’t realize it until the actual Second Coming takes place — until the real King arrives in all His glory.

Brethren, put down your flags and take up the cross. And in so doing make your declaration clear…

empire2Iesous kurios — Jesus is Lord.

Seizing the opportunity

One of the provisions of the ridiculously misnamed “Affordable Care Act” (commonly known as “Obamacare”) forces employers to pay for the abortion services of employees. The owner of the craft store chain Hobby Lobby is a professing Christian and has a serious moral and religious aversion to abortion. Yet, the federal government of the United States is trying to force him and his company to finance it. This is exactly what I was talking about in September when I characterized this sort of situation as a “Golden Opportunity.”

ThidBugleHobby Lobby’s leaders have seized the opportunity and are standing up against a government that has overstepped its authority. They are refusing to pay for something they regard as morally reprehensible and, more importantly, openly sinful. Their actions could potently cost them more than $1 million a day in fines. And yet they stand firm. I commend them.

May the Lord be glorified in their courageous stand.

A golden opportunity

We have learned in recent months that President Obama’s sweeping healthcare reform law requires employers to provide abortion services for employees — even employers with deep-seated, religious convictions against abortion. Americans are being forced to fund activity they regard as morally repugnant, even criminal. The federal government of the United States doesn’t care.

The matter has gone to court.

President Obama’s attorneys are arguing that government can “override” your religion. How they square that with the first amendment to the constitution is a mystery. Nevertheless, the point of this post is NOT to outline the egregious violations of both the constitution and the natural rights of men in the implementation of Obamacare (to adequately outline these violations would take multiple posts). No, the point of THIS post is to point out to my brothers and sisters in Christ the incredible opportunity our Lord is placing right before us.

Recall the apostles in Acts 5 who were preaching in the Temple. People were being healed and saved. This made the high priest quite jealous and he had the apostles arrested and imprisoned. An angel of the Lord released them and told them to go back to the Temple to preach, which they did.

The high priest brought the apostles back in. Let’s pick the story up there…

And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”

When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. But a Pharisee in the council named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law held in honor by all the people, stood up and gave orders to put the men outside for a little while. And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you are about to do with these men. For before these days Theudas rose up, claiming to be somebody, and a number of men, about four hundred, joined him. He was killed, and all who followed him were dispersed and came to nothing. After him Judas the Galilean rose up in the days of the census and drew away some of the people after him. He too perished, and all who followed him were scattered. So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice, and when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. — Acts 5:27-41

Please note that when the laws of men contradict the laws of God, they are null and void. The high priest ordered the apostles not to preach in Jesus’ name. He had no authority to give such an order because they had orders from a higher authority to do just that.

Likewise, Christians in America now have a golden opportunity to disregard a law our government has no authority to issue. We have been commanded by God not to murder. And make no mistake about this: Abortion IS murder. We are to have no part in it.

You may be wondering, if Christian businessmen disregard the mandate to provide abortion services to their employees won’t that be costly?

You bet it will.

They could be fined. They could lose their businesses. They could even go to jail. And therein lies the golden opportunity — the opportunity to put feet to our faith. Standing up for Christ when it is difficult is what really sets us apart from the world and calls attention to our Lord. Besides, the apostles in Acts 5 give us the perfect example of what our mindset should be in trying circumstances. Please notice the last sentence in the passage above — “Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.”

An honor to suffer?

Yep.

But, some will argue, in today’s society resisting these laws will be characterized as intolerant and narrow minded. It won’t really bring honor to our Lord.

I direct your attention to the apostle Paul at Mars Hill. In Acts 17 we read about Paul’s encounter with the philosophers of his day. Men who sat around trying to impress one another with their thinking (not unlike modern day politicians). You should understand that before he addressed these men, Paul was fully aware that the gospel would sound foolish to them. But he went on ahead and preached, his faithfulness to God being his primary concern…

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.” — Acts 17:22-31

These men were no more likely to accept Paul’s message than are those in our day. Yet notice what happened…

Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” So Paul went out from their midst. But some men joined him and believed… — Acts 17:32-34

The same will happen today. If Christians stand against unjust laws in favor of obeying God they will be mocked. Count on it. But, others will want to hear more. More importantly, some will believe.

Living out our faith as a testimony to Christ has never been an easy thing. Jesus never said it would be. But, for the sake of those who will witness our testimony, who will see how we react in the midst of suffering, we should be willing to endure all things. This is why Paul, while wearing chains in a Roman prison, was able to write this to young Timothy…

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. — 2 Timothy 2:8-10

Yes, brethren, we are witnessing the erosion of liberty in America — and what a wonderful opportunity it is.

It couldn’t happen here, right?

The persecution of Christians around the world is well documented by groups like Voice of the Martyrs and Persecution.org. We can pray for and support our brothers and sisters in other countries who are suffering because of their faith in Christ — like Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor in Iran who has spent more than 1,000 days in prison because he refuses to deny Christ. We need to be aware of brothers and sisters like him. We need to remember that Christ, Himself, told us the world would hate us because of our love for Him. We also need to know that we are not immune from such things in countries where we’ve previously enjoyed a great deal of religious freedom. A day may soon be coming when we, too, end up behind bars because of our belief in the Lord Jesus.

Consider the tone of the language we hear on the news. People are vilified because they oppose abortion. They have no right, it is said, to express their views against abortion because in expressing their views they are being “intolerant” and could “incite” others to violence. The same is said about people who regard homosexuality as sinful. They are “intolerant.” They “incite” violence. Ditto for people who dare believe that Jesus Christ is the only means of reconciliation between God and man. That view is “intolerant” of the diversity in our culture. It could “incite” violence against other religions. It is not too big a leap from where we are today to a place where pastors are jailed for the public proclamation of Scripture.

No?

You think I’m off base?

Ok.

Oh, just one thing, check out this article before you go.

Which kingdom are you focused on?

The decision by the Supreme Court of the United States to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is not surprising. That law grants the United States Government huge new powers to exercise over citizens. Look to history and you will find that those in power rarely, if ever, give up their power willingly. So the decision by the U.S. government to retain power for itself should not be a shocker.

Look to Scripture and you will find that God does not long tolerate idols…

Wait! What’s that got to do with anything, you ask?

America is the number one idol of Americans — even those who profess to be Christians. America is where they place their devotion and pledge their allegiance. It is the entity from which they expect their blessings. America is where they find their identity. They are even willing to offer up their sons and daughters as sacrifices in whatever war the government deems worthy of our sacrifice.

You may say this is “patriotism” not “worship.” Call it what you will, but this is exactly how ancient people related to Molech, Ba’al, and Dagon. It is idolatry.

Ultimately God destroys idols so that we may know that He is the Lord. Thursday’s Supreme Court decision was a massive power grab on the part of the U.S. government and, I believe, one more aspect of God’s judgment of this idol.

Today there are people who feel betrayed by their country — their country didn’t just disappoint them yesterday, it turned on them. God is revealing the idol for what it truly is.

Furthermore, the financial burden of Obamacare will only serve to hasten the economic collapse of an empire that has failed to learn the lessons of every other crumbled empire in history and, like them, insists on spending itself into oblivion. God is knocking this idol to its knees.

So, my question today is addressed specifically to believers in the Lord Jesus Christ: Are you okay with all of this?

I hope so, because God’s Kingdom suffered not even the slightest ding from yesterday’s events. It is wholly in tact. And, if you find yourself reeling from the events of yesterday I hope you will turn whole-heartedly to God’s Kingdom. Rest on the rock that no earthly court can shake.

Maybe this will help.

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