Friday, March 11, 2011

Jesus Paid His Taxes

Hello Friends and Neighbors

It has been a year and a half since I last posted on this blog. Shame on me. I have had many ideas, but have been too lazy to put those ideas down on paper, or to enter them into a Word Document to be posted somewhere in the nether regions of cyber space. I will make every effort to prevent that from happening again. I will try to post on a regular schedule and make every attempt to write thought provoking and insightful pieces. If you would follow my blog and make comments, even if you disagree with me, it would be a great honor.

I recently responded to a piece on the Op-ed page of the Florida Times Union. Last week an Episcopal Priest wrote a Letter to the Editor asking the question, “Government: What Would Jesus Cut?” His argument was that as a nation, as a community of human beings, our budget should reflect our core values. Our core values should reflect our belief that we should love our neighbor as our self. The good Reverend believes the government should not balance the budget on the backs of “the least of these” that dwell among us. I agree that the most severe cuts should not be to social services that benefit the poor, handicapped, and elderly.

A day or so later another letter took exception to the priest’s interpretation of how people of faith should respond to budgets and taxes. Her thesis was that Jesus “would not have given His money to Pontius Pilate’s gang”. While I agree with this writer that Jesus would want each of us to do our part to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit those in prison, the sad truth is that we don’t. Many churches are merely gathering places for the rich and well connected to be seen and make important business and political connections. Many churches spend much more on salaries, on buildings and amenities for the membership than they do to feed the homeless and other acts of Christian charity. That is why the government has to fill in the gaps. The church has abdicated its mission, given by none other than The Christ Himself, in favor of honor among men. They have their reward.

The second writer seem to argue that it is somehow sinful and an offense to God to pay taxes to the government. I disagree, and I believe I can use the Christian Bible to defend my argument. In my Letter to the Editor, I have laid out a very brief, but I believe solid defense of, Biblical support for the idea that Christians and Jews are obligated to pay taxes and obey the ruling government.

If you read my earlier post from 2009, you will see that the theme is consistent. People of a Judeo/Christian religious faith or background are commanded by Scripture to be good citizens. Christianity expects the Body of Christ to honor their government and their rulers. I suppose that idea of “rulers” doesn’t sit well with many of the conservative ideology, unless it is the idea of corporatist ruling over us.

I have written previously about gay rights, the religious right against health care, the religious right against Jesus, activist judges, and health care. All arguments to date are theologically based. Please, read and respond, I welcome all arguments, and all points of view. However, I do ask that we all remain civil and respectful of differing opinions. Argue strongly, but do so with dignity and honor. (RLD)

Following are a cut and paste of the three (3) Letters to the Editor that appeared in the Florida Times Union on March 4, 8, and 10, 2011. I have included links to the Times Union site for verification. The material for the Florida Times Union is not being sold, marketed, or used to make any type of monetary gain or compensation for The Communal Hope. Any comments or questions concerning my work can be emailed to Any discussion or comments about the subject matter or philosophy presented in The Communal Hope should be posted in the comments section of the site. Thank you.

Government: What would Jesus cut?

Posted: March 4, 2011 - 12:00am

Most remember the 1990s phrase, "What would Jesus do?"

The letters, WWJD, became a code worn on the wrist of many believers. The bracelets reminded believers to personally act in a moral manner that would demonstrate the love of Jesus in a real way.

Let's bring this phrase into a new century.

Government in both Tallahassee and Washington are rolling out dramatic budget cuts.

As a nation, we face many difficult financial choices to control spending. Where and what cuts do we make?

As a nation, do our budgets reflect our values and priorities that we hold dearly and believe as Christians?

Let's ask, "What would Jesus cut?"

It seems that education and domestic programs that provide basic subsistence like nutrition, health and housing for children and the poor is first up to cut. Is this choice consistent with the "good news" stories we read of Christ?

"Let the children come to me" and "when you do it unto the least of these, you do it to me" are key beliefs to guide our answer.

Do we want our nation's budgets to turn away the poor and vulnerable?

In this economic meltdown, we need the supports that level the playing field for those persons who are in need. Food, shelter and education lead to jobs and income that lift families out of poverty into productive taxpaying citizens.

When we gather to offer worship and sing hymns like, "All for Jesus I surrender, all for him I freely give," some outside of our doors are watching our witness.

They see an awful lot of trouble in the world that could be remedied by people who sing such sacred music.

What if Christian folks spoke of and lived our beliefs by asking our elected representatives to prioritize our spending?

When we ask the right questions - "What would Jesus cut?" - our thinking can clear considerably.

rector,St. Elizabeth's Episcopal Church

REPLY: GIVING (Published March 8, 2011)

Following Jesus

This is in response to the letter that the Rev. Michael D. Moore wrote about "What Would Jesus Do?"

I can tell you what He wouldn't have done. He would not have given His money to Pontius Pilate's gang!

Knowing they would probably abuse it and usurp more of the people's power, Jesus would have wanted each individual to give what he could give directly to the people in need. Just like He did.

I also believe that Jesus would have wanted us to live within our budget and to elect officials who wanted the same.

We can give our good will in the form of money directly to the organizations who support the poor. There are many ways to give to the nutritional health, education, and housing of children and the poor, besides paying taxes.

More so, He wants our time, our energy and our love for the poor. Volunteer at the local food bank and schools, bring clothes, nutritional food (and sometimes cupcakes too!) to the food banks and shelters.

The hymn the reverend spoke of says, "All for Him we freely give," does not mean in taxes, for heaven's sake.

I know no one who freely gives to the government.

Don't ask, "What would Jesus cut."

We should ask, "What would He give?"

Fernandina Beach

THE JESUS TEST (Published March 10, 2011)

He paid taxes, too

Recently, a letter on these pages suggested that Jesus "would not have given his money to Pontius Pilate's gang."

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) all record the incident when the Jewish religious leaders tried to trick Jesus by asking him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Pontius Pilate's boss.

Knowing the tax must be paid in Roman coinage, Jesus asked to see a coin. Jesus said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

In Chapter 13 of Paul's letter to the Romans, we read that Christians are obligated to pay taxes to the ruling government.

Additionally, in Matthew 17: 24-27, Jesus commands Simon Peter to go and pay the temple tax "for me and you."

So Jesus not only condoned paying taxes, he led by example.

It is disingenuous to oppose taxes based on biblical grounds.

Jacksonville Beach

1 comment:

  1. the Lord our GOD puts powers in to being like Pharaoh and the Egypt of old, Nebuchadnezzar, the Romans, and all down through history to the USA, we are to obey the laws of the land trusting God and his plan for these powers, from faith; favor, and blessings rain in accordance to our obedience and if that means picking up where our government fails to provide in the name of loving our neighbors then........... go figure †