“You are also to know that you have no authority to impose taxes, tribute or duty on any of the priests, Levites, singers, gatekeepers, Temple servants or other workers at this house of God.” (Ezra 7:2-24)
Exempting religious bodies from taxes is a government tradition with a long history. It is a way by which government honors religious bodies and the good work they do. It is not a God given right churches should demand from the state. Religious institutions should always be careful to avoid any actions which tie them to the state for support. The reasoning here is wise and should always be taken into careful consideration if government offers provide services for and within the church, as it comes with a cost that you cannot step back from.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY:
Precious Abba, You know that many of the works we provide for poor and impoverished people is done mostly in their environment, though some are done at the church as well. Government may offer monies and grants to provide services, but there is always the possibility that it will come with decision-making by the government to provide those services and to whom. When you lose the ability for all decision-making, you can no longer say no based on religious reasoning. This we pray. Amen
THOUGHT OF THE DAY:
“Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.”
“But Paul said to the officers: ‘They beat us publicly without a trial, even though we are Roman citizens, and threw us into prison. And now as they want to get rid of us quietly? No! Let them come themselves and escort us out.’ The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.” (Acts 16:37-40)
The appeal of Paul and Silas on the grounds of their Roman citizenship provides a good example of making the government watch out for us its citizens, part of its God ordained responsibility on behalf of justice. Governments never should establish a system of justice that prevents punishment of people for carrying out religious and evangelistic activities. Free exercise of religion should be every citizen’s right. This scriptural standpoint is not shared, however, by systems which do not recognize God. In such societies Christians need to work to change the system while being prepared to endure the legal punishments of the system.
“If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge , are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—-and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have lawsuits among you means you have been completely defeated already. Why not rather be wrong? Why not rather be cheated? Instead, you yourselves cheat and do wrong, and you do this to your brothers.” (1st Corinthians 6:1-8)
Paul was distressed that the Corinthians had so quickly fallen back on he civil courts. Such a development indicated not that problems cannot develop between fellow Christians but that they had been so immature to let conflict resolution get beyond the power of Christian love, forgiveness, and reconciliation to act. Paul had been forced to appeal his case to civil authorities, but his was not a dispute among Christians. The church should be able to find people and processes to settle disputes among members without going to civil court.
2ND THOUGHT OF THE DAY:
“Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. Thy sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we know you are a man of integrity and that your teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, ‘You hypocrites why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.’ They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, ‘Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?’ ‘Caesar’s they replied.’ Then he said to hem, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’ When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.” (Matthew 22:15-22)
The Pharisees intended to trap Jesus in a position which lent loyalty to Caesar and not to God. They wanted to level a charge of blasphemy against Jesus. By getting Him to declare non-allegiance to Caesar, they could get Him charged with a civil crime. Both attempts failed the responsibilities we have with church and state, but He does provide some beginning places to inform us. His answer implies we do have responsibilities to the state. These extend only to those things that are Caesar’s. A yet higher allegiance pulls upon us, too. We must be faithful to those things of God.