by Moody Adams
Politicians are quoting Jesus on taxes. Talk hosts, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly, have been drawn into the debate about Jesus’ position on taxes and caring for the poor. On the Scuba Steve Show, Steve said that his favorite Bible scripture is Matthew 22:15-22 where Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. He concluded from this that Christians should shut up about paying taxes. Steve has displayed his lack of knowledge of the Bible.

1. Jesus is not giving instructions to His followers in this passage, but is dodging a question by the Pharisees aimed at getting Him killed. If he said, “do not pay taxes” the Romans would have killed Him quickly. If Jesus had said “pay taxes.” the radical anti-tax mobs would have killed Him. Jesus' wise answer was addressed to His ungodly enemies. Those who believe they are being instructed by that teaching puts themselves in the group desiring to deceive and kill Jesus.

2. Steve’s favorite passage only deals with coins, which had Caesar inscribed on them. But this was a legitimate expense to cover highways, provide water and protection, etc. However, much of the taxation did not go to Caesar, but to the tax collectors themselves. They got to keep all he collected above an amount Rome assigned. They became the most hated people because they would take a man’s animals and even his children to be sold as slaves, all for payment of “”taxes.” So, much of the taxes were not going to Caesar, but to the tax collectors.

3. Nowhere does Jesus say anything about taxes going to “spread the wealth around.” The poor were helped by charity, not the government. The Jewish religion and individuals, not the government, were responsible for the poor. The Lord ordered a tithe for the poor, the widow and the orphans, etc., every third year. “At the end of three years thou shalt bring forth all the tithe of thine increase the same year, and shalt lay it up within thy gates: And the Levite, (because he hath no part nor inheritance with thee,) and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, which are within thy gates, shall come , and shall eat and be satisfied ; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the work of thine hand which thou doest.” This fed the poor and gave the glory to God.

Then, there was an individual responsibility to help the poor, “For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land” (Deuteronomy 15:11). They were commanded to give directly to the poor, not to the government. Jesus, nor the Bible, can be twisted to support redistribution of wealth, nor socialism.

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