Taxes & Churches – Avoiding Taxes

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the third topic of discussion.


3. Churches Existing Only to Avoid Taxation

 TAXES & CHURCHES

The third time this struggle came up for me is a conversation I had with one of my daughters friends a while back.

He was telling me about some house churches in a town north-west of where I live that were avoiding the paying of property taxes by claiming their home as a church and hiding behind the 501 (c) 3 status.  I don’t know where this young man is in relation to the Lord, but his take on the situation was bang on.  He said that it was obvious, in some of the churches, that the only reason the “church” existed was to avoid the paying of property taxes.  (Is the common refrain of offence ringing in anyone’s ears?)  My goodness.  

Summary Arguments

I can imagine some of the arguments that might arise if this teaching were to be taken seriously by the modern church.

  1. If churches had to pay taxes, missions would suffer.
    • But why would missions need to suffer?  Why not cut church staff, and allow the rank and file of the church to step up.  I think if you have been reading my junk for a while, you realize that I also struggle with what I think of as “professional christianity”.  We hire those to serve us, when we as believers need to serve one another.  It is a crippling disease within the western church.  But this is not the purpose of this blog.
  2. If churches had to pay taxes, there would be less service to the believer, less perks within the church.
    • No free study manuals, coffee, padded pews, etc.  Is that what the body of Christ is all about for you?
  3. If churches had to pay taxes, the growth of the modern church system would come to a grinding halt.
    • Large mega churches would definitely become rarer, since their tax burden might restrict future building plans.  Some existing churches would fall into default because they aree leveraged beyond their means.  
    • When this argument comes up, I often think of the struggling Chinese church prior to and during Mao’s revolution.  All modern western missionaries were pulled from China during the revolution and the western church bemoaned the situation, thinking that without the american missionary leading the church, the church would fall apart and disappear. Have you considered the last 100 years of the Chinese church?  If the rate of Christian growth continues, the nation of China will become a predominantly Christian nation within a generation or less.  (Very similar to the events of the early church in the Roman nation!) And this type of growth without any fancy buildings, professionally trained staff, or weekly entertainment get togethers.  

Amazing!

 TAXES & CHURCHES

What think ye? Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Benefiting from Taxes

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the second topic of discussion.


2. Churches Benefiting from Taxation

The second time this conflict arose in my thinking was over a period of two or three months.

I would occasionally drive by the construction of an alley way that would service a large church in the neighborhood. This alley will reduce traffic disturbance on the frontage road by supplying an additional exit from the church, and I am all for increased safety.

But doesn’t it seem backwards somewhat?

The general population (taxpayers, which include some believers admittedly) is blessing the institutional church, relieving a burden caused by the growth of a church.  A burden (the construction of the alley in this example) caused by the institutional church but not being relieved by the institutional church.  
They do have their rights!

What think ye? 
Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Avoid Offence – 3

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the first topic of discussion.


1. Christians are to avoid offence

Consider the following passage.

1 Peter 2:13-17

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,
 
or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
 

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.

 

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

Peter told the believers to submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake.  Of course we live in a nation that allows protest, but I wonder if believers are to protest as much as we do. 

 TAXES & CHURCHES

It is interesting that Peter uses the term “cloak of maliciousness” in reference to the freedoms we possess as Christians.  This cloak refers to a covering, and I think Peter is fearful that believers will use their declared freedoms, as a covering of actual malicious (evil) motivations and deeds.

I also understand that at the time of this discussion with my friend, the proposal was not an ordinance of man yet, so as far as I can tell, the church had every right to speak to God about this possible injustice.  But once this amendment passed, the church should, with well-doing, put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.  (Not be foolish men, who needed to be put to silence).

In each of these passages, the Bible seems to be telling us to take the loss for the sake of others.  Do not offend, humbly pay your taxes and do good.

What think ye?  Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Avoid Offence – 2

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the first topic of discussion.


1. Christians are to avoid offence

Consider the following passage.

Romans 13:7

Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

 TAXES & CHURCHES

In Romans 13:7 Paul told believers to pay their taxes, and since churches were in private homes, it seems obvious that if there was a property tax in those days, Paul was telling them to pay it.  If the ruling city officials request assistance from the general population to improve the living conditions of the community, does it not seem to be a sacrifice that would be well pleasing, in order to be a blessing on the community?

Fighting this proposal in the public arena was a no win situation for the church in my opinion.  The early church spoke to God about seeming injustices (see Acts 4:23, 12:5, etc.) and not to the general population.  (I guess the early church didn’t understand the power of public relations to turn the heart of a king/mayor!)

What think ye?  Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Avoid Offence – 1

taxes-150x150Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from? I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?

Consider the first topic of discussion.


1. Christians are to avoid offence

Consider the following passages.

Matthew 17:24-27

When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?”
 
He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?”
 
And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.
 
However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

When Peter was asked about the temple tax, Jesus sent him fishing and paid the taxes with a coin from the fishes mouth.  It is interesting that the Lords motive for paying the taxes is to avoid offending.

The background is the temple tax that the Jewish religious aristocracy required for the maintenance of the temple.  But note that Jesus likens this temple taxation to the more common taxation of the overlords within the land, that is, the Romans, who are referred to as the “kings of the earth”.  Interesting comparison!

So who are the “strangers” in this text?  Who did the Romans tax?

It is common knowledge that one of the responsibilities of conquered lands within the Roman empire was to bear the tax burden for the kingdom of Rome.  When Jesus refers to the children is this passage, He is referring to those who were free-born children within the Roman nation, that is, those born to Roman citizens.  Therefore the strangers are those who are the conquered.  So the comparison that Jesus makes is to liken the temple tax responsibility to the strangers (the Jewish religious aristocracy?) and to state that those who follow Jesus were the true children.

If I am following the Lord’s logic, this means that true children of the kingdom are free of this responsibility – that is, to pay any (temple) tax.

But not free from the responsibility to love.  We are not to offend our neighbor and in standing up for our rights (in not having to pay some tax), I am afraid we offend.  (Golly, after I finally considered this topic, it offends me!).

 TAXES & CHURCHES

Remember the atheist friend that was doing the surveys about the future taxation.  He certainly saw an apparent contradiction between the churches words and works.  And he certainly was able to use this experience to shore up his belief that the church was simply a business.

What think ye?  Is there something I am missing? 

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Taxes & Churches – Introduction

taxes-150x150

The city I live in was trying to find support for an amendment to the city charter.  This amendment would charge a fee/tax (based on the size of the property’s impermeable surface, ie parking/roofing) to property owners to fund an account for the improvement of roads and drainage in the city.

I knew a fellow (an atheist friend) that was actually out among the population seeking to drum up support for this amendment.  He would chat with me about the reactions he would receive and the general feelings of the city population. 

Two groups stood out in fighting against this proposition. 

I suppose you could guess the first group to oppose this amendment – malls, with their profit driven focus and huge parking lots – this would definitely impact thier bottom line causing greater overhead and therefore smaller profit margins.  Business you know

The other group? – Churches.  

And this is where I began to struggle.  Consider the reason for taxes. 

Is it not to share the burden of services for the general public?

Did not the Lord state that it is better to give than receive? 

Are we not to be a blessing to the community we live in? 

Are we not to bear the burden of our brother, doing good to all?

Which brings me to my struggle.  

Where did the right for churches to avoid paying taxes come from?  I mean, did this right to avoid paying taxes come out of Bible teaching?  

Is this “right” that churches exercise grounded in the Bible?  

The next three posts will attempt to consider this question.   Use the contact form below to share your thoughts.


 

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