Tag Archives: Tax

Chapter-a-Day Deuteronomy 14

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At the end of every third year, gather the tithe from all your produce of that year and put it aside in storage. Keep it in reserve for the Levite who won’t get any property or inheritance as you will, and for the foreigner, the orphan, and the widow who live in your neighborhood. That way they’ll have plenty to eat and God, your God, will bless you in all your work. Deuteronomy 14:28-29 (MSG)

God’s Message talks more about economics than you might think. I’ve come to realize that there is a system that I like to call God’s economy. In the economic system of God’s kingdom each and every individual is called upon to personally set aside provision from their regular income that he/she will then give away to bless those who are less fortunate or in need. The thing that I appreciate about God’s economic system is that it applied to everyone across the board. Those who were more fortunate had larger portions to set aside and share, but even those with little income were responsible to use a portion of whatever small amount they were given to give to others. Everyone participated and the local community benefited.

Somewhere along the way we lost touch with the personal responsibility and management piece and handed it over to our representative government. The government takes it before we even receive our paycheck and so we lose sight and touch with how much of our income is even taken from us to feed the system. The government handles all of the distribution so we lose touch with any personal responsibility for managing it nor do the vast majority of us get the blessing of actually giving it to a person who needs it. Not all who produce share in the responsibility of giving to those in need and who gives what becomes a quagmire of political machinations.

Certainly, we all have the opportunity to save, tithe, and give above and beyond what we are taxed. I get that. The thing that I find really sad is that God’s economy was set up to build individual character along with building up the local community. Neighbors provided for neighbors. There was local accountability and local blessing. There were deep spiritual lessons and the development of maturity that came from the personal responsibility required of each and every person to manage and give away a portion of their income to family, friends, neighbors and strangers in their community who were in need.

I understand that this still happens to varying degrees on a small scale, but I find it sad that our economic system has strayed far from the economic system God prescribed. I believe it has happened to the detriment of ourselves, our communities and our society as a whole.

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Chapter-a-Day Leviticus 19

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“When you harvest your land, don’t harvest right up to the edges of your field or gather the gleanings from the harvest. Don’t strip your vineyard bare or go back and pick up the fallen grapes. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am God, your God.” Leviticus 19:9-10 (MSG)

It is spring in Iowa and as I drive down the highway I can see the perfectly planted rows of corn and soybeans emerging in bright green dotted lines on a canvas of thick, espresso and black soil. Farmers have planted their fields wisely to get as many seeds in each row and as many rows in each field to ensure, God willing, a high yield and a measureable profit. Come harvest, they will gather as much grain as they possibly can for market.

I found it an interesting contrast to read God’s command to the farmers in the days of Moses. Poverty was as much a social issue and economic reality for people in the days of Moses as it is today. What I find fascinating in today’s chapter is that God’s prescription was for individuals to take personal responsibility for giving of their own means to the poor in their own community. The farmer left some of his field unharvested so that the poor in his community could eat and have a little to trade for their needs. There was a direct transaction of goods between people who knew one another and lived together in community. I also note that God did not command the farmer to harvest the crop and give some his profits to the poor, not did he command Moses and his cabinet of elders to take grain from farmers and administrate a system of distribution among the poor. The crop was left standing and the gleanings left so that the poor had to go to the field and do the work of harvesting it for themselves. It was a constant reminder to those of fewer means that the harder they worked, the more they had to eat and trade. There were no food stamps in the law of Moses, only food available for those who were willing to do the work to harvest it.

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Chapter-a-Day Exodus 30

Half shekel. The rich are not to pay more nor the poor less than the half-shekel offering to God, the atonement-tax for your lives. Exodus 30:15 (MSG)

So much of our world is focused on economics and economic disparity. "The rich get richer," the saying goes. "The poor will always be with you," people utter, quoting Jesus. Taxes create strong reactions across all economic lines.

I find it interesting that God asked the people of Israel to pay this simple flat-tax called the "atonement tax." God is a God of metaphor, and this tax was a constant reminder that in the economy of God's Kingdom we all stand equal. Rich or poor, great or humble, the debt of sin is the great equalizer. We all fall short of God's glory, and we all owe a debt that is humanly impossible to pay.

Once again, the ancient system God instituted through Moses encompasses the great theme of human history and foreshadows God's plan to redeem all of us through the sacrifice of his very own Son.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and tal_klinger