Tuesday, February 3, 2009

February 4- Paying taxes

February 4

24 After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" 25 "Yes, he does," he replied.
When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?" 26 "From others," Peter answered. "Then the children are exempt," Jesus said to him. 27 "But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

Lastly, I also wish to add this, that tributes and taxes are the lawful revenues of princes, which they may chiefly use to meet the public expenses of their office; yet they may similarly use them for the
magnificence of their household, which is joined, so to speak, with the dignity of the authority they exercise. As we see, David, Hezekiah, Josiah, Jehoshaphat, and other holy kings, also Joseph and Daniel (according to the dignity of their office) were, without offending piety, lavish at public
expense, and we read in Ezekiel that a very large portion of the land was assigned to the kings [ Ezekiel 48:2 1]. There, although the prophet portrays the spiritual Kingdom of Christ, he seeks the pattern for his picture from a lawful human kingdom. But he does so in such a way that princes themselves will in turn remember that their revenues are not so much their private chests as the
treasuries of the entire people (for Paul so testifies [Romans 13:6]), which cannot be squandered or despoiled without manifest injustice. Or rather, that these are almost the very blood of the people, which it would be the harshest inhumanity not to spare. Moreover, let them
consider that their imposts and levies, and other kinds of tributes are nothing but supports of public necessity; but that to impose them upon the common folk without cause is tyrannical extortion.
These considerations do not encourage princes to waste and expensive luxury, as there is surely no need to add fuel to their cupidity, already too much kindled of itself. But as it is very necessary that, whatever they venture, they should venture with a pure conscience before God, they must be taught how much is lawful for them, that they may not in impious self-confidence come under God’s displeasure. And this doctrine is not superfluous for private individuals in order that they should not let
themselves rashly and shamelessly decry any expenses of princes, even if these exceed the common expenditures of the citizens.

I have several accountant friends who, at this time of the year, are working twelve hours a day to get other’s taxes done. At the same time, in the news, there are three proposed cabinet members who did not pay their taxes and two have resigned their appointments. Paying taxes is important, especially if you are a part of the government that asks for those taxes.
Calvin saw Jesus not as a rebel (like the zealots who destroyed the land of Israel in 70 A.D. with their rebellion), but as someone who paid taxes to the government that ultimately crucified him. Calvin, unlike the Anabaptists and some other reformers, was not a rebel, but more of a refugee. He fled France to Switzerland. Here, he speaks eloquently of the right of rulers to tax, and to even personally gain from their taxation (that is be paid as governors). But he also speaks of the need to balance this with the idea that taxation is on the backs of the people. I like the part that [taxes] “cannot be squandered or despoiled without manifest injustice. These are almost the very blood of the people which it would be the harshest inhumanity not to spare.” As we think of taxes and pork spending, it would be nice to remember Calvin’s words. And yes, despite it all, I will somewhat reluctantly, and somewhat patriotically gather my stuff together- my w2s, my contribution statements, all the things that I must do to pay my taxes. A friend of mine said yesterday, “We want to drive cars, but we don’t want to pay taxes to have roads to drive them on.” I could add to that “we want safety, but we don’t want to pay taxes to protect us by the police or military.” I think, maybe I’ll go fishing today- if I can just find a fish with a couple of thousand dollars in its mouth, I’d be okay!

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