"For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God..." Romans 13:6 ESV
Yesterday we examined the charge that "Taxation Is Theft" in light of Biblical revelation and concluded that such a sentiment is unbiblical, unchristian and untrue. However, we did leave the door open to the idea that taxation may well become theft at a certain point. That seems hard to argue with from any perspective short of full-blown Marxism. The Bible never suggests the government has the right to take all of our wealth, but only to tax a portion of it. The tricky part however is that the Bible never defines those parameters in clear cut terms. That would seemingly make this much easier, wouldn't it? "The Bible says right here in 2 Corinthians that the state can not tax citizens beyond 20%" …end of discussion.
Of course, the Bible never defines things in that way. Why is that? Certainly, if God had something in mind, an absolute standard regarding the levels at which the government can tax the people He would have made it clear, cut and dry for us. But He doesn't make it clear so one can only presume that He doesn't have any set, hard and fast standard. Presumably the government has discretion to set tax policies as needed.
And that seems to be the key. Clearly the government has the right to exist, God created and ordained it after all (see, Romans 13:1-7). And since it has the right to exist and has the right to extract taxes from the people, it seems highly plausible to conclude that the government has the right to gather enough taxes from the public in order to exist and serve the people appropriately. It has the right to tax the people to the degree needed for it to function as it was designed and ordained by God. It also seems reasonable to conclude that taxation crosses the line into legalized theft once the government exceeds the tax levels needed to operate within the parameters God has set for it. The government has the right to exist and to perform its God ordained functions but has no right to exceed those functions. It furthermore has no right to wrest taxes from the people to pay for that usurpation of authority. The people are not required by God to pay for their own abuse and if they are willing to pay the temporal consequences of defying the régime they are free to disobey the government and not pay the excess taxes.
So far, so good, right? The government only has the right to tax as needed for it to exist and properly function…but…what does God ordain for the government to do? How do we know the difference between a legitimate government expenditure and an illegitimate one? How do we know when lines have been crossed and governments are stealing from the people?
We will get into that next time because understanding the Biblical role of government is where we are heading in ensuing articles here at The Under God Blog…