There are legitimate reasons to criticize the GOP tax plan. Here, on the other hand, is a very illegitimate reason I’ve heard countless times from liberal Christians: The Bible wants us to pay higher taxes in order to help the poor. By receiving a tax cut, we are taking money away from the poor. Especially by cutting entitlements, which is supposed to be the next step for Republicans in Congress, we are shirking our Christian responsibility to care for the least of these. This is the “Christian” argument for Socialism, and Christian socialists have been making it for decades.
It hasn’t gotten any better with age.
As I see it, there are two very serious problems with the idea that we fulfill our Biblical duties by paying high taxes in order to fund a vast and wasteful Welfare State:
1) The people most likely to make this kind of argument in favor of high taxes are also the most likely to reject this kind of argument in favor of any other law. But if we are required to shape our tax policy according to Our Lord’s divine edicts (sounds good to me), then it follows that we must shape other public policies by the same standard.
So, goodbye abortion. For the Ten Commandments clearly forbid the taking of innocent life. Jeremiah 1:5 explicitly affirms the humanity of the unborn, as God declares, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” And the Incarnation makes the issue as plain as can be. Our Lord became a “fetus” Himself. He was conceived in His mother’s womb and He developed through every stage just as every other child in history. Liberal Christians claim that Jesus never said anything about the unborn. Nonsense. He didn’t need to say anything about them. He became them. He elevated and sanctified human life at every stage by taking its form. End of discussion.
Also, goodbye gay marriage. For Genesis tells us that God made woman to be man’s partner. Christ, in Matthew 19, affirms this arrangement and explicitly defines marriage as between a man and a woman: “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh.'”
The list goes on.
Think of this like a court of law. If you say that a certain piece of evidence — in this case, the Bible — is inadmissible, then you cannot use it to argue your own case. The moment you pull it out, you have admitted it back into the discussion. Now you must argue for the legalization of baby murder and homosexual “marriage” on Biblical grounds, which, of course, is impossible. What you cannot do — what I won’t allow you to do — is fling the Bible around when it suits you, and then start shouting about “theocracies” when it no longer does.
2) The only thing Jesus says about taxes is that we should pay them (“give to Caesar what is Caesar’s”). He never voices an opinion about how high or low they ought to be. He does command us to give to the poor, but let’s take a look at how he phrases these commands:
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” — Matthew 25:40
“Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” — Matthew 5:42
“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” — Luke 12:33
“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” — Luke 21:1
“He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” — Luke 14:12
“And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” — Luke 3:11
Christ obviously had quite a lot to say on this subject. But, as you skim through the above verses, notice what words do not appear: “government,” “State,” “policy,” “law,” “tax.” He is not merely telling us to submit passively to some third-party administrator who will see to it that all of the tunics are evenly distributed, and all of the banquets diversely attended, and that a certain mandated portion is given to the beggars and the borrowers and the needy. Christ never established or suggests or endorses any State-sponsored system by which these things will be achieved. He makes it much simpler for us. He puts the onus not on politicians or bureaucrats but on someone else entirely: you.
Christ wants you to take your own money and give it to the needy in your community. No matter the tax rate, this obligation is not fulfilled — it does not even begin to be fulfilled — by paying your taxes. It especially is not fulfilled by sitting to the side while your neighbor pays his taxes and shoulders more of the “charity” burden than you.
I can’t help but note that, so often, the Christians who advocate higher taxes and higher welfare spending are also the Christians who will not be affected by it. They want “the rich” to help the poor, and they imagine that their personal responsibility to give to the poor has been alleviated this way. It hasn’t. Regardless of taxes, if you’re keeping nearly 100% of your income for yourself while your neighbor goes without, you are disobeying Jesus Christ and rejecting your duty as a Christian. It doesn’t matter what Bill Gates is doing. Don’t worry about him. His money is none of your concern. You have your own money, don’t you? You live comfortably, in relative luxury, while the homeless freeze to death on the streets. Stop blaming “the rich” for this problem and go out and do something about it, you hypocrites.
Now, why does Jesus advocate personal charity rather than government charity? Why does he put the onus on us as individuals instead of the State? I think the reason is this: love. The goal is not to eradicate poverty, like poverty is some kind of disease. The goal is simply to love each other. This is why Christ especially commends the old woman at the temple who gave comparatively little. It was, for her, an act of great love. And that is what Christ wants from us. He wants us to love each other.
There is no love in the Welfare System. There is no love in taxation. It is bureaucratic, impersonal, disinterested, dehumanizing. A man is not experiencing the fruits of love when he cashes a monthly check sent to him by some government office. Rather, he is being treated like a number, a statistic, a problem that must be solved. This does not appear to be what Jesus had in mind.
Indeed, we are doing the opposite of what Christ commanded when we neglect the poor in our own communities, trusting that the government will keep them adequately fed.The food is not the point. Not the whole point, anyway. The whole point is to love our fellow man. Paying your taxes, as you are compelled to do, is not love. Cheering the Entitlement System, funded mostly with other people’s money, is not love.
To love is to go on your own, personally, and give. Give what you have. Give of yourself. Give your own money. That’s what Jesus wants.