Render Unto Caesar: Taxes & Morality

No surprise, but, every time Congress begins debating taxes, someone is going to raise the question of morality.  Is it moral to tax the poor?  Is it immoral for the richest among us to want to avoid paying more?

This Christmas, however, it seems we must endure a whole new level of debate:  WWJT (Who Would Jesus Tax) ?  I don’t know about you, but, I get just a little bit prickly when watching politicians and TV pundits playing tug of war with my savior.

This latest episode began, ostensibly, with one of our local idiots, Jim McDermott, who said, “This is Christmas-time. We talk about Good Samaritans, the poor, the little baby Jesus in the cradle and all this stuff. And then we say to the unemployed we won’t give you a check to feed your family. That’s simply wrong.

See video:

He’s also said“He (Obama) keeps making the same diagnostic error. He thinks that you can shame the Republicans….They have no ability to be shamed by children without food, or people being thrown out of their homes or all the problems that come with unemployment. And so it’s wasting your time doing that.”

And, now, the latest round of the debate from TV pundits Bill O’Reilly and Steven Colbert: 

To all of these, I would offer a number of simple and, I believe, rather “self-evident” observations:

  1. Christians are clearly instructed to be charitable…with their own wealth  (as per Matt 19:21-24, among others).  The bible does not instruct Christians to take other people’s money to give to the poor.  Sorry, but it’s not charity unless it comes from your own pocket.
  2. Christians are instructed to respect authority and, similarly, to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22: 15-22).  I’m tempted here to simply remind Americans that our “Caesar” is the individual citizen described “collectively” as “the People”, not – as some might wish – the “collectivist state”.  But, I might also add that the legitimacy of  constitutional authority (to raise taxes) in this country rests principally on the natural law premises of the social contract, a concept which is tacitly undermined by progressive taxation and other redistributive social policy.
  3. Next, we might be reminded that the singular (and, I might add, self-evident) purpose of our government is “to secure these rights” – meaning, of course:  “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness“.   This “pursuit“, naturally, implicitly entails the accumulation and disposition of property in accordance with one’s conscience.  To a Christian, that “disposition” will, without doubt, include the obligations of charity.  I can’t speak for the rest of you.

On this final point, it is useful to understand that, while many (moronically) assert that, “if Jesus were alive today, he’d be a liberal democrat“, any half-serious study of the scripture would reveal that God’s laws transcend man’s laws, not to mention his politics.  In any debate on the subject, the only (human/political) question that need be considered is “how might we organize ourselves so that we might be free to obey those transcendental laws?”

Also, for the record, those that work the hardest to be “charitable” with other people’s money, have been found to be “markedly less charitable” with their own.   Really, should this surprise us at all?  That’s the whole point, isn’t it?

And, now, my point on charity:  Put up or shut up.

Harry Tuttle

P.S.  More recommended reading and information from Arthur Brooks.


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