There is a pastor in central Florida for whom I have an immense amount of respect. I know him, though I doubt he knows me, even though we have participated in a handful of evangelistic events with his congregation. I was listening to a message he had preached a few years back, and I found that I disagree with him profoundly.
The topic at hand was taxes, and before I get to our disagreement, I want to cover the areas where I think he is absolutely correct. The text that he was examining was Matt 22:15-22
Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying , Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth , neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said , Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription ? They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's. When they had heard these words, they marvelled , and left him, and went their way .
It’s a common discussion among certain Christian circles as to whether or not it’s appropriate for a Christian to pay taxes. I have friends that are on all sides of this issue, even sme that have proven their convictins with prison time but this particular pastor (whom I’ll refer to as ’J’) , while examining the text, made some points that I think are worth bringing out, to wit;
1) The people bringing this topic up didn’t really want his opinion, they were hoping to entangle him
2) In doing so, they drew attention away from things that were really important
3) They began by trying to flatter him
4) The Bible refers to this attempt to cause strife and contention with flattery and foolish questions as ‘wickedness’
5) Even though they opposed the Roman monetary system, they still used it ( more on this point later)
6) Jesus told them to pay their taxes
‘J’ went on to make the larger point that complying with the often ridiculous ordinances of man will give your enemies less ammunition and gives them less of an opportunity to hinder the work of the gospel. As grievous as some of the ordinances are, our calling as Christians isn’t to spend our lives opposing them, but to comply as much as we can as we go about the much higher job of evangelism. Of course taxation is theft, J said, but the lost man you’re trying to witness to pays his taxes, so you should too. He said that he would rather stand before God having tolerated government thievery and kept his testimony than to stand before God having wiggled his way around the rules and wasted his life with the effort. All of these are superb points, and a good reminder to keep the main thing the main thing.
But a few minutes later, this pastor remarked at length of what he saw as hypocrisy among anti-tax people (or anti-FED people or limited government people) in that they will still use the services they are opposed to. He said he had never met anybody opposed to the Federal Reserve System that didn’t have FED notes in their wallet. People that are opposed to government roads still drive on them. People that want to privatize the police still call the government police when they need them. He saw this as hypocrisy, and this is where I disagree.
My disagreement is simple. I have little choice, save jail, but to go along with the government’s thievery. He roads I drive on, the Post Office I use to mail letters, the police and fire departments, , I helped pay for. It’s not hypocrisy for me to use what I paid for after the money was stolen from me to pay for it. Also, especially in the examples I cited, the government’s monopoly of force has forced me to use their services. I can’t choose to mail a letter and NOT use the Post Office. I can’t choose to drive to town and NOT use government roads. So I’m not CHOOSING to use them, and that lack of choice frees me from hypocrisy. If I had a choice and I still decided to avail myself of things I have already paid for at the point of a gun rather than pay twice, I see no hypocrisy there either.
Now certain government services we pay for, and refuse to use, such as the government school system. I hate that I pay for it, but it’s stolen from me. I can’t stop that, but I still have a choice as to whether or not I use it, so I abstain. I abstain for a wide variety of reasons, with one of the main reasons being that I have the ability.
Or am I wrong?