20 April 2012

Tithing and taxes

This little gem found its way into my Facebook news feed recently:
I'm all for a flat tax. Everyone above the poverty level pays 10% of their total income. It sounds pretty damn fair to me. Yes, this includes corporations too. 10% is good enough for God, it should be good enough for our government. If it's not, then why does our government need more money than God?
Well, gee; it's not much of a flat tax if some are excluded from it, now is it? Taxes are nothing more than a way to transfer wealth from one group to another. Even this proposed system would do exactly that.

That's not the point I wanted to make, though.

What I want to make clear is that tithes and/or charity (in God's name) and taxes should never be conflated or confused with each other. Taxes are involuntarily expropriated via the threat of government force. God, on the other hand, makes no such threats against person or property for failing to give. Not only that, but He doesn't even require that you give to a middle man. Whether you buy a meal for someone in need or give to a church that does, it's the same.

I'm certainly no theologian or saint, so take the following for what it's worth: Our (Christian) salvation is gained through the sacrifice that Christ made by dying on the cross and our belief in what He said about Himself, namely that He is Christ. Paul explains this in Ephesians 2:8-9, saying:
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
I say this to make the point that our salvation is not dependent upon our charity, and thus there is no "donate or go to hell"-type threat looming over Christians. Now, certainly, those who are saved will, by virtue of their salvation, by and large be found to be donating (time, money, etc.) to the church and/or charity as God has instructed them. However, given what Paul said, I find it hard to believe that failure to do works (i.e. give to charity) invalidates salvation. After all, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

There are volumes that could be written about these subjects, and I'm not qualified to write them, although I did find this article instructive. In short, tithing and charity are voluntary; taxes are enforced through violence and/or the threat thereof. Never confuse the two.


  1. How about every citizen, including the poor, pay 10% of their income as taxes but only on a completely voluntary basis?

    Citizens who support how their tax money is being spent would happily send in the tax. Those who oppose the way it is being spent would not mail any in.

    If tax rates are too high in a state, people will move to states with less taxes.

  2. You are a Christian?

  3. @JG: In theory, that's possible now. Taxes don't need to be voluntary in order for people to "vote with their feet" by moving to a place where the tax burden is lower or the tax money is spent on relatively less objectionable things. In fact you can see people leaving California in droves for the first time in a long time for that very reason. California is an interesting case as described here:
    http://www.volokh.com/2011/07/05/california-dreamin-of-secession/ I find the linked article interesting because it talks about how people *should* be able to vote with their feet, but California's favorable geographic location and climate causes many people to put up with more than they otherwise would, government-wise, all other things being equal.

  4. @July 19, 2012 3:22 PM: Probably not a very good one in many people's eyes, but yes.

  5. wow, I'm shocked.. I owe you an apology.

  6. In my experience, including an exemption for the poor in a flat-tax argument is just a concession to statists who aren't ready to give up on redistribution.

    On the other hand, I'd much prefer a 10% flat tax with an exemption for the poor to the system we have today.

  7. If you make $10,000 in one year, taking away one thousand is going to drastically affect your ability to get food, pay rent, etc. If you make a million you'll still have $900,000, plenty to provide for you and a family. In this sense, the 10% flat tax is only fair abstractly but in reality is unkind, immoral, and against God's wishes for how we care for one another.


Please be relevant, civil, and brief... in that order.