by Matt Wyers
A couple of weeks ago I began a series to discuss why Socialism is not a valid or beneficial political theory. If you missed the definition of Socialism I gave in Part 1 then you can read that now.
Last week I took up the topic of reconciling Socialist thought with Christian morality. And here is a spoiler alert, Socialist thought did not fare too well. I told you though that I was not able to include everything I wanted to talk about when it came to Christian morality and Biblical teaching so I am finishing that up today.
I will dive right in today and spare you all the background. You can read Part 2 though for that background if you missed it.
I want to start with our modern concept of the graduated income tax. That simply means that your income is taxed at a higher rate based on higher levels of income. It differs from a flat tax in that individuals pay different percentages depending on how much they make. You may not have been aware of this, but the very idea of a graduated income tax is Socialist in nature. It is based on the idea that the wealthy are to offer up an increasingly larger portion of their money and not simply a higher dollar amount based on the same proportions throughout the population.
You have probably heard the term class warfare before, but Barack Obama was not the first President to engage in it. The condemnation of the “wealthy” for not paying their “fair share” has been a staple of American politics for over a century. Let us leave aside for a moment the ambiguous idea of the “fair share” that is covered more specifically in Part 1 by the way. Think about the premise for a moment. Where does this idea that the rich are supposed to bear a disproportionate amount of the tax burden originate? It was not in the Constitution as the original document forbade an income tax altogether. The answer is that it comes from Socialist thought.
You might counter that with the idea that the wealthy paying a higher percentage of their income is perfectly reasonable. After all, the wealthy have a disproportionate amount of the wealth, right? It is only fair, right?
First, let us ask the question of what burden are they supposed to be bearing? The grand Socialist system is all about making sure everyone has enough of the basic necessities, right? And the Bible tells us to give to the poor, right? Yes, it does tell us that, but we need to be more specific. How does it tell us to go about doing that? Surely, there is a preferred way and an inferior way. I am sure even the most ardent Leftists among us would not advocate for a system of giving to the poor that relied upon loading up a helicopter with big bags of money, flying the helicopter over poor neighborhoods, and then dropping the bills from the sky. There is no order in that system. And it is arbitrary. There is no way to make sure individuals get what they need and no way to ensure the system is not abused by individuals who simply station themselves under the helicopters at the most opportune times.
And yet, one could make a fine emotional argument that doing such a thing is indeed giving to the poor, right? And that opposing such a system makes one a hardened and greedy reprobate, right? After all, why would anyone oppose giving to the poor regardless of what form it took? Giving is giving, right?
Well, I hope the absurdity of the example makes the point. There is always a preferred way and an inferior way of going about completing any task. So for those who are interested in Socialist principles because you believe they are consistent with Biblical teaching then keep reading. If you are at all familiar with Biblical teaching on any subject then you know that God always lays out a preferred method of accomplishing any goal. So then, what was the preferred method of giving to the poor?
Last week I stated that the Bible always speaks of charity in terms of individual giving, not large bureaucratic systems that encompass all of society. This week I want to take a look at an Old Testament principle that is very relevant to this discussion.
Take a look at Deuteronomy 26:12. More of the passage surrounding this verse is linked below.
“When you have finished laying aside all the tithe of your increase in the third year-the year of tithing-and have given it to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be filled…” Deuteronomy 26:12
For those of you unfamiliar with the terms here, “tithing” is the giving of 10% of your income or other forms of material profit to the Temple officials in Jerusalem. The “Levites” were the class of priests and one of the 12 tribes of Israel. And in short, they were the Temple officials also.
Do you notice the context of the giving that God is commanding here? You can see here that God is instructing the people to give their tithe to the priests, and nothing new there, but for more than the purpose of administering the Temple. These days Christians have taken the teaching of the tithe and applied it to the local church and the tithes are given for the purpose of supporting the local church. I will not get into the intricacies of that doctrine as there is disagreement, but that is clearly how they did it in ancient Israel.
We should take notice though that the tithes were not merely for the administration of the Temple. This passage clearly states that the Temple officials were also in charge of ensuring that the widow, the fatherless, and the stranger had their basic necessities met. The meaning of “widow” is clear and it should be noted that in ancient Middle Eastern society widows had no way of providing for themselves without family. The “fatherless” refers to orphans and young children clearly could not take care of themselves no matter the time period. The “stranger” can refer to foreigners or anyone that was in your region that did not have a home there. The Levites, being unable to work as normal people because of their duties as priests, were also to benefit from the tithe.
The tithe that was commanded by God was in part commanded for charitable purposes. Further, the book of Malachi refers to God’s storehouse. Let us look at that.
…Bring all the tithes into the storehouse,
That there may be food in My house,
And try Me now in this,”
Says the Lord of hosts,
“If I will not open up for you the windows of heaven
And pour out for you such a blessing
That there will not be room enough to receive it.” Malachi 3:10
Notice the context there as well. God is interested in there being food in His house. I can only conclude that this food is literal and that it is meant for the needy.
Now, do not miss the bigger picture here. God commanded individuals, not society at large, to give their money. God commanded that the instrument of His charity would be His Temple, not any government. It was typical of ancient societies for their “church” and their “state” to be mixed, but this really was not the case in Israel. The two were divided in very important ways. The Levites were never rulers over the nation of Israel. The kings and the judges were never given authority to administer the Temple. God commanded charity to be done within the context of private and faith-centered institutions.
As a Christian myself, I am confident in God’s omniscience. If God believed the government was the better conduit for charity then He surely would have made it known. At the very least, He surely would not have take any time to make a distinction between church and state. If giving is giving then God would not have felt the need to be specific on how to go about doing it.
There is another key point to be made here. When it came to charity, God did not make a distinction between the wealthy and anyone else. Notice that the command to tithe was given to everyone. Let me say that again, it was given to everyone. Notice that God did not take the time to impose a higher standard upon certain segments of the population. Ten percent was the figure given to everyone. Just looking at it logically, the only people exempt from this tithe were the individuals who were meant to benefit from its charity, or in other words, the people who had nothing to give.
God was not arbitrary in His commandments and it seems that when it comes to charity, God instructed the people to operate with the same principle of the flat tax. And being that various forms of alleged charity are the basis for the Leftists arguing for the wealthy to pay their “fair share” then it only makes sense that monies meant for charity would be collected under the same system. That would be consistent would it not?
By the way, I am not arguing for a welfare state funded by a flat tax. I have argued in the past and in this very article that it would be much better if charity were reserved for private individuals. The point is that there is no Biblical basis for government based charity. Socialism has no roots in Christianity.
It should also be noted that tithes and taxes were viewed differently in the Bible. There was no concept of charitable giving being in any way tied to monies given to the government for its operation. An individual was expected to pay both and each for their own separate purpose. Even in the time of the New Testament, the taxes that were paid to Rome did not exclude people from giving their tithes to the Temple. And that reminds me of another point in this discussion.
Ever heard the phrase “Render unto Caesar” in the context of how Christians should obey the government? Let us take a look at that. The link will take you to the verse in context as well.
You might have been hit with this verse in the past as a catch all doctrine on Christians obeying the government. That is not what it is talking about.
Christians are to obey the law of the land, no doubt. The Bible states that clearly as long as the laws do not conflict with God’s Word. This passage, however, was Jesus’ response to the Pharisees when they asked Him whether or not it was lawful, in the Scriptural sense, to pay taxes to Rome. They were trying to trick Him naturally into saying something either anti-Roman or anti-Scriptural so that they could condemn Him either way.
Jesus’ answer though reflects His Divine wisdom. Jesus said it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar because the government had authority over such things. He did not stop there though. The implied question within the situation and the answer to it that Jesus gave, even though no asked for it, was that God has authority over human beings. Caesar’s inscription was on the coin so it should then be given to Caesar. Human beings are made in God’s image though so human beings are to dedicate themselves to God as the highest authority.
And therein lies the greatest problem with Socialism as it pertains to Christianity. Socialism requires the highest allegiance to the state. The state owns everything. The state can give or take anything. The state is seen as the possessor of all wisdom as it decides who gives, who receives, and everything else for that matter. No one is to question the state itself, only the “fairness” of their fellow citizens in whether or not they are being sufficiently dutiful to provide for all of society’s “needs.” There is no room for self-sacrifice in the Christian way, only the critical and cynical perspective of arbitrarily judging all others as to how loving or self-sacrificial they are.
Next time I am going to be discussing how the practice of Socialism impacts human nature and whether or not these Socialist paradises are truly possible or a fantasy of the human imagination. Stay tuned.