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Christians and taxes....

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  • Christians and taxes....

    A couple thousand years ago some men went to Jesus with entrapment in mind, which would put the messiah at great odds with the roman gov't in the occupied lands of the Jews. It was in regards to christ and even his followers paying taxes in to the roman gov't. Yes, all conquered people were expected to give money to the Romans. As were Roman citizens. But here, these are the words spoken, taken from the N.T.

    And they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Him, in order to trap Him in a statement. And they came and said to Him, 'Teacher, we know that You are truthful, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful to pay a tax to Caesar, or not? Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?' But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, 'Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.' And they brought one. And He said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?' And they said to Him, 'Caesar's.' And Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.' And they were amazed at this.
    And remember, this question was asked of christ in regards to paying taxes, so don't try to make this into something else entirely. Should christians pay taxes to the gov't or not? And if they do, given they are commanded to pay them by christ, should they bitch and complain constantly about being taxed? Christ did not equate taxes with theft, so why do many of the right wing christians equate taxes with theft?

    I mean, I keep seeing these great inconsistences and just want to try and understand the rationalization being used here by some on the right. All that I can figure is that some are twisting around the Teachings to suit a conclusion arrived at without consulting scripture. I mean, I saw someone once post that this particular scripture wasn't really about paying taxes, but I can't recall what they were claiming it actually referred to. It seems perfectly clear to me, when I read it.

    See, the Jews were looking for a different type of Messiah. One with a divine sword which would smash Israel's enemies, and of course christ was not here to do that. He came to Teach of the kingdom and the manner in which man may enter back into it, being finally reconciled with God. As he told Pilate a bit later on, His Kingdom was not of this world, the world being the roman empire, the hierachy of an organized jewish religion with its heiarchy of men who achieved power, profit and prestige under any system created by man himself for nefarious reasons. And the world created by the very thing that separated man from god from the get-go. That was the world christ spoke of, and His Kingdom was nothing like this. So His Teachings were a danger to the established religious authority, but not to Rome. And the priests needed rome on their side, doing their murdering. And so they came to Him to trick him. And His answer was truthful, and gave no support to the Jewish idea of a messiah, which was a false idea to begin with. Afterall, the real deal Jewish messiah of that era would have said, "hell no, don't pay those romans a damn cent, because I am here to thrash their asses, run em home, and give Israel their rightful place among nations."

    So do your as a devout christian give no importance to the taxes you are forced to pay to the gov't? Or do you consider it theft, and something you should not have to do? I think it's simple, valid question to ask of these people. I mean, they are supposed to deeply believe as truth that Book they live by. So yes, a fair and valid question although I will be accused of baiting by those that will not answer it, or accused of being an idiot by others.

    Yet all that I really seek is an understanding of attitudes using reason to defend the attitudes and beliefs. I have sought it for a very long time. I cannot get to where the right wing christians believe by using their Book. And I just want to know how they can. I hope I can get some of the guys here who feel they understand scripture to contribute in a serious manner to this inquiry. I mean, I am dead serious in regards to religion and the Teachings.

  • #2
    Re: Christians and taxes....

    I would first suggest that the Bible verses you actually want are in Romans 13 (esp. 13:7 "Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes;(H) if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."), not in Mark 12 (or Luke 20, which has the same account). Alternatively you could go to Mathew 17 where Jesus Himself actually pays taxes. Either of those would be better passages than this one for your purpose. And, just to get it out there, I agree that we should pay our taxes and that taxation is not "theft."

    However, I would actually agree with those who say the verses you quote are not actually about taxes at all. Or rather, that while the question Pharisees asked was about taxes, the answer was certainly not. It couldn't have been, since the entire point of the question was to make any direct answer impossible: if Jesus just said "No, don't pay taxes to Rome," then he risked being arrested; if he just said "Yes, you should pay taxes to Rome," then he risked becoming wildly unpopular since the taxes were hated by the people. So any interpretation that reduces Jesus's response to one of those two simplistic decrees about taxation misses the point. It would also conflict with the otherwise universal pattern of Jesus to avoid politics entirely.

    But more importantly, if the point was just to say "Yes, we should pay taxes to Rome," then the whole thing He did with the coin, the question about whose image was on it, and His remarks about rendering "to God the things that are God's" is just pointless and confusing. None of that was necessary (or even helpful) if He was just saying "pay your taxes." So again, I think any interpretation that disregards the majority of Jesus's answer as meaningless fluff is missing the point.

    A better reading (in my opinion) is that Jesus was given a question about taxes and responded with an answer about surrendering oneself to God. Hence the task of pointing out that the denarius bore Ceaser's image and thus belonged to Ceaser, just as mankind bears "the image of God" and thus belongs to God. Hence, his final answer is not "pay your taxes" but "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." We were created by God's power and in His image and should thus give ourselves to Him as surely as the coin, created by Ceaser's authority and with his image, is turned over to Rome. It's an interpretation that that pays more attention to Jesus's own question and the fullness of His answer, is more consistent with His general teachings, and fits His pattern of not giving the Pharisee's a direct answer when they tried to lay a trap for Him (as He did just before this in Luke 20:1-8).

    But again, I do think we should pay our taxes and that there are NT passages that could be used to argue that doing so is a moral obligation for a Christian; I just don't think this particular passage is one of them. One could argue that it assumes that the taxes should be paid, but it doesn't teach that; that isn't the point.

    מה מכילות החדשות?


    • #3
      Re: Christians and taxes....

      You shouldn't encourage him, he is just trying to justify stealing his support from someone else.

      מה מכילות החדשות?


      • #4
        Re: Christians and taxes....

        My sensibilities lead me to believe that a tithe to your religion and a tithe to the government should really suffice. But that's just me.

        מה מכילות החדשות?


        • #5
          Re: Christians and taxes....

          Originally posted by Dilettante View Post
          I would first suggest that the Bible verses you actually want are in Romans 13 (esp. 13:7 "Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes;(H) if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor."), not in Mark 12 (or Luke 20, which has the same account). Alternatively you could go to Mathew 17 where Jesus Himself actually pays taxes. Either of those would be better passages than this one for your purpose. And, just to get it out there, I agree that we should pay our taxes and that taxation is not "theft."

          However, I would actually agree with those who say the verses you quote are not actually about taxes at all. Or rather, that while the question Pharisees asked was about taxes, the answer was certainly not. It couldn't have been, since the entire point of the question was to make any direct answer impossible: if Jesus just said "No, don't pay taxes to Rome," then he risked being arrested; if he just said "Yes, you should pay taxes to Rome," then he risked becoming wildly unpopular since the taxes were hated by the people. So any interpretation that reduces Jesus's response to one of those two simplistic decrees about taxation misses the point. It would also conflict with the otherwise universal pattern of Jesus to avoid politics entirely.

          But more importantly, if the point was just to say "Yes, we should pay taxes to Rome," then the whole thing He did with the coin, the question about whose image was on it, and His remarks about rendering "to God the things that are God's" is just pointless and confusing. None of that was necessary (or even helpful) if He was just saying "pay your taxes." So again, I think any interpretation that disregards the majority of Jesus's answer as meaningless fluff is missing the point.

          A better reading (in my opinion) is that Jesus was given a question about taxes and responded with an answer about surrendering oneself to God. Hence the task of pointing out that the denarius bore Ceaser's image and thus belonged to Ceaser, just as mankind bears "the image of God" and thus belongs to God. Hence, his final answer is not "pay your taxes" but "render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." We were created by God's power and in His image and should thus give ourselves to Him as surely as the coin, created by Ceaser's authority and with his image, is turned over to Rome. It's an interpretation that that pays more attention to Jesus's own question and the fullness of His answer, is more consistent with His general teachings, and fits His pattern of not giving the Pharisee's a direct answer when they tried to lay a trap for Him (as He did just before this in Luke 20:1-8).

          But again, I do think we should pay our taxes and that there are NT passages that could be used to argue that doing so is a moral obligation for a Christian; I just don't think this particular passage is one of them. One could argue that it assumes that the taxes should be paid, but it doesn't teach that; that isn't the point.
          I always use words of the Teaching, the words uttered by Christ as he was teaching and interacting with the people around him. The verse I used was Christ addressing the issue of paying taxes. I think it is certainly worthy and illustrative of his Teachings on the subject. I certainly would never use anything that Paul said, as he was not the Christ, and you run the risk of Paul corrupting what he very well may not have understood. Not that he did, but why bother with him when the words from the horses mouth should be more trustworthy. I also used Mark because this is thought to be the earliest of the snynoptic gospels with some experts thinking Matthew and Luke used Mark as a reference.

          If this verse is not about taxes, the question would not have been asked. If Christ does not lie, his answer is not a lie. He was asked about whether taxes should be paid to Rome. The fact that he used the image of the roman emperor as an aid in his answer is just that, nonthing more. What better way to illustrate his answer? It makes his answer richer in content. And it again emphasizes that the Kingdom he was teaching about was not this kingdom that man lived in, which included roman rule and the entire world that the "self" had manufactured. This kingdom, this world that man had created was adverse to the Kingdom, and Christ made that distinction several times.

          If one experienced salvation when christ walked the earth, and entered into the Kingdom, that person still had to exist and survive in the World. And to exist in this World requires obeying the laws of this World, like those of taxation. And so given this fact the answer Christ gave supported and gave permission for this. His Kingdom was and is a spiritual realm, a state of consciousness, that is out of sync with the World, yet the physical body still has to live in this World.

          I don't see anything pointless and confusing about the way in which he answered. Afterall, this was a trap wasn't it? His method of giving His answer was insightful and very clever, foiling the trap set up by the religious authority of the day. And not being a liar, a truthful answer was given.

          His answer to me illustrated that even though one may be of the Kingdom, one still has to live in this world, the society, the gov't man created. And having to live in this world, if taxes are demanded, you cannot use the Kingdom as an excuse not to pay them. That would perhaps get you thrown into prison, or even killed. And by teaching this he cleared much up in regards to how a follower of christ was to live in this world of man.

          Too many times I see people trying to complicate the relatively simple, and it has been endemic in attempts to make the Teachings agree with orthodoxy. We over complicate much of the Teachings when if they are to be very powerful, very enlightening, even the most uneducated man should find them easy rather than harder to understand. If you have to have a degree in anything to grasp the Teachings, chances are you will never understand them, IMO.

          מה מכילות החדשות?


          • #6
            Re: Christians and taxes....

            Originally posted by OldmanDan View Post
            You shouldn't encourage him, he is just trying to justify stealing his support from someone else.
            I always suspected what you knew of Christ could fit on the back of a postage stamp. And I never expected a thoughtful answer from you oldman. So you did not disapoint!

            Yet Christ commanded you to pay your taxes, and it is logical to assume He doesn't want you bitching about it, or calling it theft either. LOL. Yes sir when the Teachings don't agree with your own ideology, what do you do?

            מה מכילות החדשות?


            • #7
              Re: Christians and taxes....

              Originally posted by eohrnberger View Post
              My sensibilities lead me to believe that a tithe to your religion and a tithe to the government should really suffice. But that's just me.
              Yes, generally speaking both contributions are to be used for the common good of mankind. Yet I really don't think this was the issue with the verse I quoted. This teaching was a rather simple one. Since the physical body of even a saved person has no choice but to live in this world, we are not asked to commit suicide or imprisonment for refusing to give the gov't what it demands in taxes. He was simply putting this issue of taxation by rome at rest and made it clear several times the Kingdom he came to teach of was not the kingdom that the mind of an ego driven mankind had created. The same mind that tried to build tall towers reaching into heaven as a celebration of the ego. The same mind that was infected with self importance, desires, greed, avarice, hatred, lust, envy and so on. Yet the world created by all of this even the saved have to exist in. So for the saved person, obey the rules of gov't, and don't make yourself a target. In other words, don't commit suicide over not paying your taxes to rome or any other gov't. This world created by man is not the Kingdom. So live in this world, yet dwell in the Kingdom, ground yourself in the Kingdom and tolerate the world. Logically this is the only correct understanding that doesn't require a degree in theology to understand, or even an education. Even the village idiot can grasp this. And the village idiot must be able to understand Christ too, not just a very educated person. The Creator's university is in human consciousness, a direct learning, with no man in between to corrupt understanding. It is placed there in all humans. And it has become the capstone humanity has discarded, yet it is the most important stone of the structure.

              מה מכילות החדשות?


              • #8
                Re: Christians and taxes....

                Originally posted by Blue Doggy View Post
                ....snip for relevance....... The Creator's university is in human consciousness, a direct learning, with no man in between to corrupt understanding. It is placed there in all humans. And it has become the capstone humanity has discarded, yet it is the most important stone of the structure.
                You were doing ok, not necessarily right or wrong, but not making wierd statements. Then you had to come up with the last statement above. That statement reeks of arrogant self righteousness, as if God speaks to you and no other person should try to inform you of anything. Do you have a straight link to God? The Holy Spirit? I think not, though the Holy Spirit has inspired MANY MEN to inform humanity of Gods intentions and desires. I believe the Holy Spirit inspires men of different faiths, not just one, and frankly Blue Doggy, I don't believe you are one of those men. Virtually every time you insert yourself into a discussion about religion you make the claim that no man can know God and teach his meanings. Are you a man? Then by your own words you don't know God. You have created some ideas, many right, maybe even all of them, but based on your own contention, I am not supposed to believe you because you are a man. As it turns out, I don't agree with you, but not because you are a man, but rather because I believe you are kind of weird in you're religious expressions.

                I do believe the Holy Spirit has inspired men, and women, to teach God's word. That would include the prophets, maybe even some of the Saints. Could he have inspired Ghandi? Probably! Did he inspire other religious of old and of modern times? I believe so. Did he inspire those MEN who wrote the New Testament which is the only story of Christ's teaching? I believe so. Since the New Testament was written by different people at different times in different places I believe that is the only way that they match each other in the important issues of Christ's teaching. I believe your blanket disavowal of any Christian teachings which came from man puts you into one of two situations: 1. You are God's prophet; or 2. You like to make noises as if you are one.

                Some men do corrupt Christ's teachings, and Christ warned us about them; but that is why we have theological scholars to try to separate the chafe from the wheat. Maybe they aren't always right, but so far over 2,000 years the message on a whole has remained the same with inspirations from the Holy Spirit tweaking our understanding as our cultures change.

                For example, understanding the Chinese Buddhist philosophy could well be a Holy Spirit inspired philosophy to do good and treat people with kindness and humanity. Would you deny that was a teaching of Christ as well?

                I really think when on a public forum like this the very idea of cordial conversation ends as soon as anyone specifically condemns another person's belief. It is something you do on a regular basis. Maybe you are right and my beliefs are wrong, but your condemning my faith is bigotry as much as my condemning your faith.
                Last edited by CharlesD; 01-06-2013, 09:23 PM.

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                • #9
                  Re: Christians and taxes....

                  Originally posted by Blue Doggy View Post
                  I always suspected what you knew of Christ could fit on the back of a postage stamp......snip for relevance......
                  Gee, and I chose not to say that to you because you would consider it an insult and press the report button.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Christians and taxes....

                    Originally posted by Blue Doggy View Post
                    I certainly would never use anything that Paul said, as he was not the Christ, and you run the risk of Paul corrupting what he very well may not have understood. Not that he did, but why bother with him when the words from the horses mouth should be more trustworthy. I also used Mark because this is thought to be the earliest of the snynoptic gospels with some experts thinking Matthew and Luke used Mark as a reference. ...snipped for relevance.....
                    Amazing! You have said before you never need to read the Bible again. Are you saying you remember it word for word? Are you saying Mark wrote those words as Christ spoke them? Or was it from memory? Or was it a couple of hundred years after Christ when he wrote it from the oral tradition passed down THROUGH MAN? Tradition has it that Mark wrote down what the head of the early Christian Church, Peter, told him to write. He was not even one of the disciples.

                    Now, when was this Gospel written? The confusion about whether it was written before or after the deaths of Peter and Paul implies that it was written around the time that they died in A.D. 67.[*] If he wrote both well before or after this time, there should not be any confusion in the tradition. Based on this, date the Gospel as being written sometime between A.D. 55 and 75. The same constraint applies to Luke (discussed in the next section). That is, it was written before A.D. 75, and Mark was written before Luke (by the two source hypothesis), so we must change the dating of Mark to between A.D. 55 and 70.

                    Although at this distance in time we can't be absolutely certain that the Bible Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John really were based on the testimony of their named authors, this is a reasonable assumption, and it would account for why the early Christians accepted them so quickly.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Christians and taxes....

                      Originally posted by Blue Doggy View Post
                      I always use words of the Teaching, the words uttered by Christ as he was teaching and interacting with the people around him. The verse I used was Christ addressing the issue of paying taxes. I think it is certainly worthy and illustrative of his Teachings on the subject. I certainly would never use anything that Paul said, as he was not the Christ, and you run the risk of Paul corrupting what he very well may not have understood. Not that he did, but why bother with him when the words from the horses mouth should be more trustworthy. I also used Mark because this is thought to be the earliest of the snynoptic gospels with some experts thinking Matthew and Luke used Mark as a reference.
                      This is off-topic, but I don't have much left to say wrt taxation:

                      I can understand the desire to only look to the Gospels and disregard epistles of Paul, but I think it's a mistake. Paul's epistles were written first. If you prefer Mark over Luke because it was earlier, then Paul's writings get you even closer to the time of Christ's life than Mark does. If you're worried about "corruption," I don't see why you'd trust Mark's later writing over Paul's earlier. Peter refers to Paul's writing as "scripture" and Luke refers to Paul as an "Apostle." All evidence points to Him being accepted, after his conversion, by the people who knew Christ in person.

                      Now, if you think there's a direct conflict between something Jesus taught and something Paul taught, then sure, go with Jesus. And I think it's fair to remember that Paul was just a man. But he was a man who was much, much, closer to Jesus's life than we are, who spent his time with and learned his doctrine from the people who heard it directly from Christ. I think that makes him a pretty useful tool for (1) helping us understand what Christ taught as relayed in the Gospels, and (2) giving us some hint of what He might have taught that wasn't recorded in the Gospels (which, necessarily, can only provide a brief snapshot of the most important things He said/did).

                      The question of taxes is a great case-in-point! I would argue that Jesus's statements about paying taxes are murky at best; again, He avoided those sorts of disputes like the plague (there's probably a lesson in that). The Biblical writer who actually makes your case for you is Paul! Which, at the very least, tells you that those who lived alongside Jesus didn't see a problem in paying taxes.

                      What you certainly don't want to do is to assume that you, 2000 years later and in a completely different culture and relying on brief fragments of Jesus's life, are a better judge of what Jesus meant than the apostle who lived at the same time, in the same place, and learned directly from Jesus's disciples. THAT is the great danger of just throwing out the epistles.

                      Originally posted by Blue Doggy View Post
                      If this verse is not about taxes, the question would not have been asked...
                      ??? Jesus got asked various questions and chose not to answer them on the terms they were asked (and sometimes didn't answer them at all).
                      I would suggest that the Pharisees very much wanted Him to get engaged with politics, since politics is inherently divisive and almost always stains those associated with it, but that Jesus's answer demonstrates His refusal to play that game. Anyway, I've already laid out why I think that's a poor interpretation, so I won't repeat all that. It's fine if you disagree

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                      • #12
                        Re: Christians and taxes....

                        Originally posted by eohrnberger View Post
                        My sensibilities lead me to believe that a tithe to your religion and a tithe to the government should really suffice. But that's just me.
                        Excellent point.

                        If you apply biblical principles to taxation everyone pays a flat 10 percent. Anything less and the individual isn't paying their fair share and anything more is government stealing.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Christians and taxes....

                          Originally posted by Blue Doggy View Post
                          I always suspected what you knew of Christ could fit on the back of a postage stamp. And I never expected a thoughtful answer from you oldman. So you did not disapoint!

                          Yet Christ commanded you to pay your taxes, and it is logical to assume He doesn't want you bitching about it, or calling it theft either. LOL. Yes sir when the Teachings don't agree with your own ideology, what do you do?
                          Now, I am not by any means religious, so I might be completely off base here. But isn't one of the central tenants of Christ's teachings that one should not be judgmental of others? In other words, when you accuse him of breaking with Christ's teachings, aren't you also breaking with Christ's teachings?

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                          • #14
                            Re: Christians and taxes....

                            Originally posted by Blue Doggy View Post
                            I always use words of the Teaching, the words uttered by Christ as he was teaching and interacting with the people around him.
                            Interesting. Maybe you've heard of this one: For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

                            You are awfully quick to judge others for someone who supposedly adheres to the teachings of Christ, who apparently disapproves of people being judgmental of others.....

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                            • #15
                              Re: Christians and taxes....

                              Originally posted by Blue Doggy
                              So do your as a devout christian give no importance to the taxes you are forced to pay to the gov't? Or do you consider it theft, and something you should not have to do? I think it's simple, valid question to ask of these people. I mean, they are supposed to deeply believe as truth that Book they live by. So yes, a fair and valid question although I will be accused of baiting by those that will not answer it, or accused of being an idiot by others.
                              Honestly, I’ve never looked at paying taxes as a spiritual issue [beyond not cheating on taxes]. Precious little of it gets to the poor, anyway.

                              Neither do I consider taxation as a form of theft: there is defense, infrastructure and etc that can only be practically managed by the government and these require funding. So some degree of taxation is not only legitimate but necessary.

                              I will say, however, that certain degrees of taxation can constitute a kind of theft and I understand why people would call it that; furthermore, when you get into higher levels of taxation people are less inclined to work because they become de facto indentured servants to the government. What is the point of working another 20 hours a week if that income is going to be confiscated by the government? It makes no sense.

                              Higher tax rates are a disincentive to production and are an example of the government cutting its nose off to spite its face when they are levied. So the reasons for lower taxes are less spiritual than practical, imo.

                              But I like the poster’s idea about the 10 percent across the board rate. I can see Jesus getting on board with that. Imagine if the government had to live on a budget like the rest of us.

                              Seriously. I’d love to have a 2013 Mustang Cobra GT-500; and human nature being what it is, if I could raise my debt ceiling by printing money and depositing it in my bank account, I would be driving one now.

                              But I can’t do that, so I’ll keep driving my 10 year old GT.

                              Until the government learns to do something similar we will look in vain to the words of Jesus because He didn’t have a whole lot to say about it.


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