TITLE: YOU CAN'T DO THAT TO US--WE HAVE OUR RIGHTS!
Subtitle: What Is The Church's Responsibility to Caesar?
The Indianapolis Baptist Temple and pastor Greg Dixon are in the news again because of their ongoing fight against having to pay employment taxes. They have taken the position that it is a sin to pay these taxes because Jesus Christ alone is Sovereign over the church and not government. But the courts continue to rule against them and have given the IRS permission to recover nearly three and a half million dollars in unpaid taxes and penalties by selling the church's assets. Unless the appeals process turns up something to the contrary, it appears that the congregation will have to vacate the premises soon because the buildings and land will be sold.
Most Christians read about this and are outraged at the gall of the federal government and its heavy handed totalitarian practices. Preachers get all hot under the collar and sermonize against the attempted encroachment of government into the affairs of the local church and exhort the brethren to join with them in the good fight. Collections are sometimes taken up to help defray the legal expenses of this cause and others like it, because IBT is not the first and probably wont be the last to stick out their neck.........but we must ask if what they are doing is really Scriptural?
Let's face it, we are spoiled in this country! Our constitutional rights are wonderful and we enjoy freedoms that are the envy of the rest of the world. And when any of these rights are encroached upon and threatened, we ought to howl in protest because they are precious and were purchased by the blood of many good men and women. Our freedom of religion is, in my opinion, the most precious of all and we should thank God daily for allowing us to live in a country like ours. But we have become so accustomed to our freedoms that we have a "knee jerk" reaction to any perceived violation by loudly exclaiming, "Hey, they can't do that to us!--We have our rights!"
Perhaps you are not aware of it, but for many years our government was extremely lenient where taxes for preachers and churches were concerned--so much so, in fact, that cheating by preachers and churches was almost a cottage industry. Many is the man who obtained the title of "reverend" for no other reason than to get out of paying as much tax! Otherwise good and honest preachers pulled every illegal stunt in the book to avoid taxes for themselves and went out of their way to do the same for paid church employees, Christian school employees, etc. I know what I am talking about because of having been a deacon and board member of a fairly large Christian school and affiliated Christian radio station. When the pastor resigned, we found out what he had been doing and were appalled. Then as we began to check into and learn more about the subject, we found that it was a widespread practice among many preachers. Of course the IRS was aware of this and when the loss of potential revenue became great enough, they eventually clamped down hard! These sudden and severe restrictions were apparently triggered by a ridiculous number of "ordination certificates for a price" available through classified ads in almost every major magazine and newspaper. The courts were (and still are) full of cases involving those who claim that their weird beliefs and practices constitute a religion and therefore are guaranteed tax relief (and other perks) under the freedom of religion statutes. So when we really analyze the situation, preachers are as much to blame for the present restrictive tax situation as anyone!
Is it a sin for churches and pastors to pay taxes to the government? Before we look at what the Scriptures have to say about the subject, let's make some observations first. Since we consider the money given to a church to be "God's money," we want every penny of it to count for His honor and glory. And we certainly do not want any government agency to intrude into the free exercise of our beliefs and practices. History is replete with despotic leaders and governments that literally made the practice of religion available only under their terms--forming what were actually state churches. This is the primary reason the framers of our constitution and those who have amended it, have made freedom of religion such a major part of our guaranteed rights as citizens. The "separation of church and state" was intended to keep the state out of churches and not vice versa. But I am afraid that our history of freedom in these matters has resulted in an attitude of "they can't do that to us!" and many have gotten thoroughly confused over the difference between legal rights and purely spiritual matters. When we get right down to it, "they" can do that to us when the majority opinion prevails! "They" are doing it at the present and "we" may not like it, but such is life! The only Scriptural option open to pastors and churches is to use the legal/political system lawfully in an effort to overturn whatever ruling is deemed to be repressive. When this legal step is taken, as it has been done by numerous churches in the past, both common sense and a desire to be good stewards of God's resources must dictate that we be prepared to pay up if we lose.
In the first place, pastor Greg Dixon and the Indianapolis Baptist Temple violated clear Bible teaching when they rebelled against a duly authorized order to pay employment taxes. The spiritual issue is not whether they like it or not, or whether it is constitutional or not, but rather "what sayeth the Scriptures"? If, and only if, the Word of God tells us that paying taxes is wrong and Caesar has no right to tax God's work, are we supposed to "obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Does the Bible teach that paying taxes is wrong? Hardly! Look at what Romans 13:1-7 has to say:
"Let every person be loyally subject to the governing (civil) authorities. For there is no authority except from God--by His permission, His sanction; and those that exist do so by God's appointment. Therefore he who resists and sets himself up against the authorities resists what God has appointed and arranged--in divine order. And those who resist will bring down judgment upon themselves--receiving the penalty due them. For civil authorities are not a terror to [people of] good conduct, but to [those of] bad behavior. Would you have no dread of him who is in authority? Then do what is right and you will receive his approval and commendation. For he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, [you should dread him and] be afraid, for he does not bear and wear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant to execute His wrath (His punishment, His vengeance) on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only to avoid God's wrath and escape punishment, but also as a matter of principle and for the sake of conscience. For this same reason you pay taxes, for [the civil authorities] are official servants under God, devoting themselves to attending to this very service. Render to all men their dues. [Pay] taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, and honor to whom honor is due. (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary, emphasis mine).
Some may try to say that this portion of Scripture is directed toward individuals and does not apply to churches, but need I remind you that churches are comprised of individuals? The whole tax issue is one of constitutionally guaranteed rights and has no Scriptural basis whatever. Again, the actions of pastor Dixon and his church in refusing to pay taxes constitute rebellion and this is what God's Word has to say about that:
"For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as idolatry and teraphim (good luck images)...." (1 Samuel 15:23[a], Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
And just as a side issue, please consider that our very nation was founded upon acts of rebellion against King George of England--God's ordained leader at that time! This was a violation of what we just read in Romans 13.
Additionally, we have the teaching of our Lord Himself in Matthew 22:15-21, where He answers those who were trying to entrap Him on this same subject:
"Then the Pharisees went and consulted and plotted together how they might entangle Jesus in His talk. And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, Teacher, we know that You are sincere and what You profess to be, and that You teach the way of God truthfully, regardless of consequences and being afraid of no man; for You are impartial and do not regard either the person or the position of any one. Tell us, then, what You think about this: Is it lawful to pay tribute [levied on individuals and to be paid yearly] to Caesar, or not? But Jesus, aware of their malicious plot, asked, Why do you put Me to the test and try to entrap Me, you pretenders--hypocrites? Show me the money for the tribute. And they brought to Him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, Whose likeness and title are these? They said, Caesar's. Then He said to them, Pay therefore to Caesar the things that are due to Caesar, and pay to God the things that are due to God" (Parallel Bible, KJV/Amplified Bible Commentary).
Beloved, it would seem to me that all of us should be able to understand that
the Lord's kingdom is not of this world and is, in fact, a spiritual kingdom.
Taxes--however unpleasant--are part of this temporal world and that which is due
Caesar has no bearing whatever upon our spiritual lives.
To insist upon making a big fat hairy deal out of taxes and taking the position that it is a sin for a church to pay them, is to go much further than Scripture does.
During the last several years it has become almost fashionable among conservative preachers to adopt a belligerent attitude and cultivate a following among those of like mind and temperament. The list of causes felt to be worthy of "godly indignation" is almost infinite and great creativity is utilized in forming congregations into socio-political armies determined to "bring America back to her Christian heritage" and to right all of the wrongs caused by big government, etc., etc. Multiplied millions of dollars have been raised among God's people in a futile effort to stem the tide of political corruption and the historically inevitable slide into oblivion which has been the utimate fate of all those who came before us. God's ordained leaders have become embroiled in one lost cause after another and wasted precious resources which could have--and should have--been used to reach people for Christ, rather than trying to reform the unreformable. Abortion, homosexuality, drugs, and a thousand and one other important spiritual issues have been used by the devil to entice preachers and churches into gigantic exercises in futility--overt attempts to force godly and Scriptural values upon an ungodly populace. It will not work and if we would but look at their point of view with one ounce of objectivity, we would have to admit that we too would be outraged! There is not even one instance in the New Testament where Paul, or Peter, or any of the other apostles or disciples ever tried to reform society (other than by using God's ordained method--the preaching of the gospel) and they certainly did not teach that it is our responsibility to do so. According to the Bible, this world is headed for hell and our sole job as believers is twofold: (1) To grow in grace and knowledge of Christ ourselves, and (2) be proper witnesses for Him by letting the light of the Holy Spirit "shine" in our everyday lives. It is becoming more and more apparent that somewhere along the way most preachers today have forgotten that the Sovereignty of God is in complete control of matters, just as we see in the verses from Romans 13. Denouncing sin from the pulpit is one thing, but becoming actively involved in politics and trying to butt heads with Uncle Sam is quite another! What ever happened to prayer and faith? If as much fervor and energy were invested in these two spiritual resources as is being wasted trying to do God's work man's way, revival might break out in our churches and the Holy Spirit really shake things up!
Leadership is a responsibility that comes with the job of being a pastor and no truly dedicated man is ever so foolish as to take it lightly. Genuine sheep need an undershepherd and will follow the man that God has placed in that position. It then becomes our duty to make sure that we are following the Lord before we exhort them to "follow me"! And once we head out on our journey as a pastor we soon discover a truly unfortunate trait of human nature: all of us are easily bored and if things start to drag a bit--some of the sheep will tend to stray and look to greener pastures for excitement. This is upsetting to the pastor and if he is not very careful he will overcompensate and, consciously or not, engage in plans, programs, and passions in an effort to keep the sheep occupied. Have you ever noticed the excitement of a congregation during building programs? Things are happening and committees are busy and excitement is in the air. Then as soon as the building is finished, it is back to business as usual and boredom quickly sets in. The pastor is human too and he wants to be successful in his pastorate by having a growing congregation-- because let's face it, consistent growth is the major yardstick by which ministries are rated today. So the tactic of rallying the troops behind a cause has become one means of accomplishing several things. It gives the preacher a theme to stress, an identity (sometimes nationally), and provides "busy work" for the potentially bored--all in the name of "turning America around for Christ."
The most pitiful aspect of the whole thing though, is that only a handful of professed Christians in the average conservative church today show up for prayer meeting and serious Bible study. Ten percent of these individuals (if the average is that good) wind up doing 100% of the work and the "faithful few" as I call them are really the only ones the pastor can count on. They will be there through thick and thin and are very likely to be the only genuine sheep in the place! The rest are the most vocal and demanding of the pastor's time and contribute precious little if anything.
But in closing I want to make a few more remarks concerning the attempted forcing of spiritual values upon a public that is anything but spiritual, through the means of legislation. The eighteenth amendment to the Constitution, which was commonly called "Prohibition," did just that and, as I have mentioned in a previous article, was hailed as a "great spiritual victory" because it supposedly ended the sales of beverage alcohol. In retrospect, we now know that it only caused an inconvenience to those who sold the stuff and forced them to be more discreet! Then just fourteen years later, the amendment was repealed and booze came back with a vengeance. This moral victory was won at the expense of the ungodly majority and in the long run only made things worse.
Preachers who have apparently made it their goal in life to "joust at windmills" along with Don Quixote, are doing so in spite of not having any clear Biblical mandate. Telling ungodly and lost people about spiritual things and warning them of judgment to come is certainly the responsibility of preachers, but leading crusades to reform them through what amounts to force is ridiculous. And not only is it ridiculous, but dangerous as well! This type of thing has being going on all across the country (especially in Washington D.C.) and public resentment is steadily growing. One of these days it is going to boil over and violent persecution of Christians will begin. The apostle Paul told us, "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Timothy 3:12, KJV), but I am sure that he did not envision the day when ill-advised preachers would add insult to injury! Make no mistake about it--any Christian that tries to live a godly life is going to suffer persecution--but common sense should dictate that we not make it worse by thumbing our noses at those who hate us.
If you have received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and been born again, but have been very lukewarm in your spiritual walk with Him, you need to immediately ask Him for forgiveness and for renewal. He will instantly forgive you, and fill your heart with the joy of the Holy Spirit. Then, you need to begin a daily walk of prayer and personal Bible Study.
If you have never placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior, but have come to sense His reality and the approaching End of the Age, and want to receive His FREE Gift of Eternal Life, you can do so now, in the privacy of your home. Once you truly believe in Him as Lord and Savior, you are spiritually Born Again, and are as assured of Heaven as if you were already there. Then, you can rest assured that the Kingdom of Antichrist will not touch you spiritually. If you would like to become Born Again, turn to our Salvation Page now.
We hope you have been blessed by this ministry, which seeks to educate and warn people, so that they can see the coming New World Order—Kingdom of Antichrist—in their daily news.
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