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Friday, September 23, 2011

9/23/11- The Problem with Taxes

"These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; 12 and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. 13 He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. 14 He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his courtiers. 15 He will take one-tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and his courtiers. 16 He will take your male and female slaves, and the best of your cattle and donkeys, and put them to his work. 17 He will take one-tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves. 18 And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day." (1 Samuel 8:11-18)

[Jesus] said to them, "How is it then that David speaking by the Spirit, calls him [the messiah] 'Lord?' for he says, 'The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet." (Matthew 22:44)

(Christ as King at the Last Judgment- Michelangelo- Sistine Chapel 1537-41)

Thoughts: Up to the time of Samuel (roughly 1375-1050 BC) the people of Israel had no centralized government.  They had no palaces, no white house, no courtroom, no library of congress, few roads, no large cities, no standing army or navy, no elections- but also no centralized taxes.  The people had been dependent on God but also dependent on their being faithful to God.  They appeared stuck in a cycle of rebellion-remonstrance-repentance-restoration, because they refused to be faithful.  Armies would invade the land every forty years or so.  They claimed God as their King, but had a hard time living like it.
    As soon as they had a king, they began having a standing army for protection, and eventually all the things listed above (or similar) that they hadn't had before.  But Samuel's warning of what the king would take would come true.  In tough times like ours, such taxes are especially hard to swallow.  But it is also true that it is hard to restrain the government from over-taxing.  Here the biblical standard for taxing is 10% (vs. 17)- similar to the tithe to the church.  To a people who had no taxes at all, 10% was a huge amount.  But such a flat tax is lower than what most pay today in America.  Jesus said "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's"(Mt. 22:21).  Within us there is a longing to be free- with no taxes.  Within us there is a longing to have God alone as King.  But the problem is we are not faithful to God and would thus leave ourselves open to punishment.  But as Israel shows (722 and 586 BC and 70 AD- both north and south were destroyed) even with a king, being unfaithful has its consequences.  The ideal that we all long for is no taxes, yet protection from God.  That is how it will be in heaven.  Calvin said that Christ is ideally our prophet, our priest and our king.  His rule is easy and His burden is light.

Prayer: My God and my King, help me to submit to your rule in my life.  Keep me from rebelling against you or those you have placed over me.  Prince of Peace, grant me the peace of knowing you are reigning even now.   

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 26- How does Christ execute the office of a king? A. Christ executes the office of a king in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

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