What does God say about taxes?


Have you ever wondered what God thinks about taxes; when man’s tax system was instituted and why; whether we ought to pay taxes today; and whether there will be taxes in the Millennium?

To be clear, we need to distinguish between tithe contributions—money which belongs to God—and taxes—money which belongs to Caesar. As we explain in our booklet on tithing, titled, “Tithing-Today?” the first time tithing is mentioned specifically is when Abraham gave the tithe from everything to Melchizedek (Jesus Christ manifesting Himself as a human being). We can see from the context that tithing was in force already prior to this event, and that Abraham followed a practice with which he was familiar. Later, we find that Jacob spoke about giving a tithe to God.

In the New Testament, it is clarified that tithing is still in force and effect today. In the book of Hebrews, we read that the tithe, which was temporarily given to Levi, reverted back to Christ who had received the tithe long before Levi was born. God challenges us in the book of Malachi to pay Him His tithe, and He says that we defraud Him, if we do not do this; and Malachi wrote for us today and addresses the time just prior to Christ’s return.

The Bible speaks of three tithes. Today, the first one is for the preaching of the gospel and being given to the Church, the second one is kept by the individual for the purpose of paying for his expenses to be able to keep the annual Holy Days; and the third one is given to the Church by those who can afford it every third and sixth year out of a cycle of seven years for the purpose of helping the Levites, the fatherless and the widows, referring today, for example, to those Church members who are in need of assistance.

Apart from the tithe, God also demands occasional offerings (especially on annual Holy Days), according to the free will and decision of the donor, and there were times when God asked the Israelites to contribute to the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. Also, Exodus 30:11-16 obligated the Israelites to pay “ransom money” in addition to the tithe.

The Bible indicates that there will be tithing in the Millennium, given the fact that it was established as a godly system long before the covenant with Levi.

One could think that the third tithe will not be enforced in the Millennium as there will not be any poor people in need of financial support. But the third tithe was also for the Levites, as they had no possession in the land. That will be the case again in the Millennium (compare Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Numbers 18:20-21; and Ezekiel 44:28-30).

We should also note that Ezekiel 44:30 refers to the first tithe as well which will be given to the priests. The Pulpit Commentary states:

“A further portion of the priests’ emoluments is stated as the first of all the firstfruits of all things – or, of everything (Revised Version), as e.g. of corn, oil, must, and wool – and every oblation- or, heave offering – of all – or, of everything – with the first of the people’s dough; or, coarse meal; which again re-echoes the provisions of the Law, the first of the firstfruits being specified in Exodus 23:19; Exodus 34:26; Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 18:4; the oblation, in Numbers 15:19; Numbers 18:19 and the dough, or coarse meal, or groats, in Numbers 15:20, 21. Ezekiel’s supposed… silence as regards the firstlings of cattle… is imaginary. The first of all the firstfruits of everything cannot surely mean of everything except cattle….”

When addressing man’s tax system, the Bible does not say when the human tax system began, but it is clear that God did not institute it. In fact, God told the nation of Israel through the prophet Samuel that the human tax system was the consequence of sinful behavior by the people. They did not want to be ruled anymore by God, but demanded a human king. God made it very clear that the demand for a king was SINFUL. It constituted the rejection of God’s rule over them. This desire, to be ruled by man, rather than God, has always been a major problem in man’s conduct. Christ explained that His own people (the house of Judah, John 1:11) would kill Him because they did not want Him to rule over them (Luke 19:14).

Samuel explained that the king and the human system over which he (or any human leader) would rule would take the sons and daughters of the people, as well as the best of their fields, to use them for his (or the government’s) own purposes and personal gain; that he (or the government) would make many weapons and build a great army to fight against other nations; and that he (or the government) would institute a tax system, in addition to the godly enjoined duty to pay tithe and offerings to Him.

Christ and Paul would make it clear, later on, that we are to pay our taxes to Caesar (Luke 20:22-25; Matthew 17:24-27; Romans 13:6-7). This clarification had to be made in light of the evil origin of the tax system and the abuse and waste of the collected tax money by the government. Some say that since the tax money is terribly wasted and used many times for ungodly purposes, we should not pay it. But Christ made clear that we need to do it, thereby being submissive to the human powers, in order not to give unnecessary offense. We read that Mary and Joseph obeyed the governor’s command to travel to their home town to be taxed or registered there (Luke 2:1-5). We also read about an interesting episode in Matthew 17:24-27 where Christ made clear that He was not obligated to pay a tax to the temple belonging to His Father. But Jesus paid it anyway by using money found in a fish, to give no justification to others to accuse and reject Him. Of course, they would later lie about Him anyway, saying falsely that He had taught them not to pay taxes, compare Luke 23:1-2.

On the other hand, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage of tax relief. Got Questions wrote:

“We are free to take every legal tax deduction available. We do not have to pay the maximum amount of taxes possible. If the government allows you a tax break, you are free to take it. If there is a legal way you can shelter some of your money from being taxed, you are free to shelter it. Illegal and/or dishonest methods of evading taxes must be rejected.”

Even though we are told to pay our taxes, this does in no way justify or exonerate those who collect and use the taxes for ungodly purposes. In this regard, let us focus on what the Bible has to say about “publicans” or tax collectors who collected taxes for the government which would then use them for many unrighteous and godless purposes.

We read that the apostle Matthew who was also known as Levi was a tax collector. But when he was called by Jesus, he left all that he had, including his occupation, to follow Christ (Luke 5:27-28; cp. Matthew 19:27).

In Matthew 9:10-13, we find an interesting account regarding Christ’s treatment of tax collectors:

“Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’”

The publicans, or collectors of taxes which the Jews paid the Romans, were infamous for their illegal exactions and malpractice. The publican was the pariah of Palestine, and no decent person would associate with him. The extortion practiced by this class made them hateful to the community, who in their current speech ranked them with “harlots.” There was a strong feeling among religious Jews against the lawfulness of paying taxes to a Gentile ruler. It is no wonder, therefore, that we find the native collectors (even of districts where the money raised went to Antipas’s treasury) classed with “harlots”, “sinners” and “heathen.”

But Christ came to call tax collectors and sinners to repentance. This included Matthew and Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector (Luke 19:1-10).

John the Baptist who conducted a baptism of repentance, warned the tax collectors not to engage in dishonest conduct, and he demanded repentance of them by refraining from collecting more than what was appointed to them (Luke 3:12-13).

Jesus did not whitewash the misconduct of tax collectors. He said that a brother who refuses to listen to the Church should be treated as a “heathen and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:17). At the same time, repentant and believing tax collectors and sinners or harlots will enter the Kingdom of God before or sooner than the unrepentant and unbelieving Pharisees (Matthew 21:31-32). In Luke 18:9-14, Christ compares the self-righteous Pharisee with the repentant tax collector and says that the tax collector was justified or forgiven, but not the unrepentant Pharisee. Christ did not reject tax collectors when they came to listen to Him (Mark 2:15; Luke  5:29; 15:1).

But He required change. Even if Mathew had been honest in his occupation, he did not continue as a tax collector for the Romans who used the taxes for many ungodly purposes, as it is true today for every country.

We are told to pay taxes but with that, our responsibility ceases. What is being done with the collected tax money is no longer our responsibility, but God will hold the government and those who work for it accountable for how the collected tax money is being spent. In fact, we will judge them, under Christ, when the time for their judgment has come.

It remains true, in any event, that the origin of the human tax system is evil, and that a country and a people are destroyed when heavy taxes are imposed (Proverbs 29:4, American Bible: “By justice a king gives stability to the land, but he who imposes heavy taxes ruins it.”).

The Pulpit Commentary writes about the passage in Proverbs 29:4:

“He that receiveth gifts overthroweth it… it may mean ‘the taker of bribes,’ the unrighteous ruler who sells justice… or it may signify ‘the imposer of taxes’…”

The Keil and Delitzsch Bible Commentary on the Old Testament comments on Proverbs 29:4 as follows:

“A king by righteousness bringeth the land to a good condition; But a man of taxes bringeth it down… A man on the throne, covetous of such gifts, brings the land to ruin by exacting contributions; on the contrary, a king helps the land to a good position, and an enduring prosperity, by the exercise of right, and that in appointing a well-proportioned and fit measure of taxation.”

Even though every nation has a man-made tax system today, it still must be stated that the higher the tax obligation is in a particular country, the less righteous that country [and the government] may be in God’s eyes. Rulers who demand the payment of oppressive taxes like to be called “benefactors,” but they exercise lordship over the people—being autocratic tyrants rather than servants of the people (Luke 22:26; cp. Matthew 20:25).

The Bible contains many examples when the kings or governments imposed high taxes on the people with disastrous consequences. For instance, we read in 1 Kings 12:1-19 about events that took place during the reign of Rehoboam, son of Solomon. To finance his massive building projects, Solomon had taxed the people heavily during his reign. Following his death, the ten northern tribes appealed for relief from the heavy tax burden, but Rehoboam listened to his young and inexperienced advisers and refused the request. Instead, he announced to them that he would even increase the tax burden. The Israelites rebelled against the king and when Rehoboam sent Adoram with the apparent goal to collect the taxes, he was stoned.

Amos 5:11 includes the following warning and condemnation from God:

“Therefore, because you tread down the poor And take grain taxes from him, Though you have built houses of hewn stone, Yet you shall not dwell in them; You have planted pleasant vineyards, But you shall not drink wine from them.” The Jamieson Fausset and Brown commentary states that this is a reference to “burdensome taxes levied in kind from the wheat of the needy.”

Another example of a king of Judah who did evil in the sight of God and who taxed the people heavily can be found in 2 Kings 23:31-37.

Taxing people heavily normally goes hand in hand with other evil conduct. Notice Micah 2:2; 3:1-3; 7:2-4. To do justly and love mercy (Micah 6:8) do not harmonize with the imposition of heavy taxes. And so, the people will “groan when a wicked man rules” (Proverbs 29:2); especially when no proper and sound counsel is being given to him (Proverbs 11:14) or accepted by him (Ecclesiastes 4:13), and when he is found out to be a liar (Proverbs 17:7) or a “child’ (Ecclesiastes 10:16), in that he is behaving in a childish or immature manner (cp. also Isaiah 3:4, 12) .

Because of sinful conduct, a nation has many princes or leaders (Proverbs 28:2), who are all in disagreement with each other; or, as this passage is being translated in the German Luther Bible, “because of the transgression of the land, its princes change often.” Taxing the people heavily to fill the coffers of the government and engage in wasteful and ungodly spending and even increase the government’s debt most certainly falls into the category of foolish and ungodly leadership which the Bible condemns.

How much different it will be in the Millennium! There is no indication that we will have any humanly devised taxes, and people will live in prosperity. Note Micah 4:4 which explains that “EVERYONE” shall sit under “HIS vine and under HIS fig tree.”

God has characterized our English-speaking “Israelite” nations and especially the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as “ungodly nations” (Isaiah 10:6). The reasons are manifold, of course, but the heavy taxes imposed by the governments on their people is most certainly one important factor. Let us look, as an example, at the oppressive tax burden within the United States, with special emphasis on California, but the situation is not much different in the other “Israelite” countries as well.

We are informed that 70 cents of a dollar earned is paid out in tax to the IRS. In addition to the many kinds of federal taxes, there are numerous state and local taxes. The tax authorities collect individual income taxes, corporate income taxes, payroll taxes, and capital gains taxes; sales taxes (or use taxes), gross receipts taxes, value-added taxes, excise taxes; property taxes, tangible personal property taxes, estate and inheritance taxes. (Some US states may not have all of these taxes, but most of them do.)

You might have never heard about some of those taxes, and if you did, you might only be vaguely familiar with some of them. For example, excise taxes are “internal” taxes levied against specific goods made or used within the country. Historically, liquor and tobacco have been the targets of such taxes; in modern times excise taxes have been collected on the cost of long distance telephone calls. Use tax is the tax that you pay for importing goods into your home state. In situations where there is no sales tax, you pay use tax. Sales and use taxes are mutually exclusive. For example, California’s sales tax rates range from 7.35% to 10.25%. This base rate is the highest of any state.

In the U.S., short-term capital gains are taxed as ordinary income. That means you could pay up to 37% income tax, depending on your federal income tax bracket. Long-term capital gains are taxed at lower rates than ordinary income, and how much you owe depends on your annual taxable income. You’ll owe either 0%, 15% or 20% on gains from the sale of most assets or investments held for more than one year, depending on your annual taxable income. There is a flat 28% capital gains tax on gains related to art, antiques, jewelry, precious metals, stamp collections, coins, and other collectibles regardless of your income.

In addition, you pay state capital gains tax in California. California taxes all capital gains as regular income. It does not recognize the distinction between short-term and long-term capital gains. This means, your capital gains taxes could run up to 13.3%, depending on your overall income and the corresponding California tax bracket.

In some of the US states, you may also have to pay estate tax. California is part of the 38 states that don’t impose their own estate tax, nor is there inheritance tax in California. Then there are gift taxes. In 2021, you could give up to $15,000 to someone in a year, and in 2022, this increases to $16,000; otherwise, the IRS requires the filing of a federal gift tax return. Some US states impose additional state gift taxes, but California, for example, is not one of them. But California’s state government is getting its tax money in many other different ways. In fact, California is one of the highest taxed states regarding income tax.

This short overview should make it clear how totally different the ungodly man-made tax system is from God’s tithe and offering obligations. Today, due to man’s decision to be subject to Satan rather than to God, God’s people are called upon to pay both. Thankfully, man’s evil tax system will end soon and prosperity and wealth for everyone will flourish as a consequence, when Jesus Christ returns to this earth to crush to pieces all human governments and replace them with God’s righteous rule. This day cannot come fast enough.

Lead Writer:  Norbert Link

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