Daniel 1:8 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
Daniel and his friends made up their minds not to eat the King’s food. They had their faces set like flint and they were not going to give in. They were self-controlled and disciplined to do what they knew was right. They were not going to take the cheese and fall into the trap. They were not going to allow their identity to be taken away with wine and meat. While they would serve and submit to the Babylonian king because they knew that God required them to serve and submit to those in authority, they were going to do so as free men not as those who loved their chains. They were not going to fall for bread and circuses.
We are at that time of the year where there are signs all over creation, ads on every television and radio station, and now even text messages coming to your phone with politicians making you promise after promise if you will support them. In AD 140, a man named Juvenal wrote of the corrupt Roman populace this way:
“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.”
He was referring to laws passed around 140 AD by Roman politicians giving out a grain dole to poorer people in order to capture their vote. They provided free wheat and put on costly circuses and other forms of entertainment as a means of gaining political power. It was a promise of food and drink in order to cultivate loyalty and lull one into a superficial contentment while one’s liberties were taken away just as King Nebuchadnezzar was attempting to do with the young men of Judah.
And now everywhere we turn we have politicians making the same offers. Vote for me and I will give you free healthcare. Vote for me and we will give you free college. Vote for me and you will get free birth control. Vote for me and we will take money away from the mean rich and give it to you. Vote for me and you will get free Netflix. Well, I made that part about Netflix up but I am sure someone will take my suggestion and run for office. If the ads are not offering you something, they are warning you that the other person wants to take away your free something. Don’t vote for Mark Cox because he wants to take away your right to free Taco Bell. Forget JFK’s don’t ask what your country can do for you. You don't have to ask because we will tell you exactly what we can do for you. You have a problem, the government has got to do something about that. Have no fear, there will be a politician ready to do that something if you will just give her the chance.
I want to compare this mindset with a message from one of the pastors of the pilgrims inviting young men to come with them on their journey to North America. This is an invitation from Robert Cushman. He writes:
"That for men which have a large heart, and look after great riches, ease, pleasures, dainties, and jollity in this world...I would not advise them to come there, for as yet the country will afford no such matters: but if there be any who are content to lay out their estates, spend their time, labors, and endeavors, for the benefit of them that shall come after, and in desire to further the gospel among those poor heathens, quietly contenting themselves with such hardship and difficulties, as by God’s Providence shall fall upon them, being yet young, and in their strength, such men I would advise and encourage to go, for their ends cannot fail them."
He is saying if you are the type who is looking out for yourself and your ease and comfort, you need to stay away. But if you are the one who will come and work not for yourself but for the benefit of generations who will be here after you are dead and gone and if you want to see the gospel go forth, then we invite you. I can almost hear the attack ads now.
Robert Cushman doesn’t think you deserve to have enjoyment. He wants you to sacrifice your wealth for people you haven’t even met. Shame on him. I am King George and I approve this message
So what has happened that we went from leaders pushing for self-sacrifice to leaders on all sides offering everything under the sun to stay in power. How did we get here?
There are a few reasons but among them is that the we have lost what the purpose of civil government is supposed to be. We have left behind a biblical view of civil government. This is because many pastors have refused to instruct both the people and the magistrates on their duties. It used to be common practice for the Puritan pastors to preach election day sermons where they instructed the magistrates and the people on their duty. These sermons will filled with practical advice, warning about breaking God's law and even instruction on monetary policies. Because of this instruction, unbelievers feigned allegiance to God and unbelieving civil magistrates were compelled to obey God and work towards enforcing his law. Now we know that this was not a utopian time. They did not always get justice right but there was a great influence of the gospel on the kingdoms of the world. We need pastors who will instruct us in our duty towards civil government and the civil governments duty towards us. In a time, when every politician is setting before you food and wine from their portions, you need to know where those portions come from and why that politician is offering you these choice gifts. You also need to know what the civil government exists for.
The civil government does not exist to provide for your wants, desires, and even your personal needs. Romans 13:3 says:
For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.
Civil government exists to serve God through service to public good by punishing evil and protecting the liberties of those under its care. In the beginning, man was a moral agent living freely in a reality that is good, coming from the hand of God: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Man blessed with reason and a moral sense was created in the image of God. He was made a little lower than the angels, and given dominion over the earth. He had the responsibility to take dominion and with that came the liberty to do so. Liberty is God-given. Man’s dominion over the earth and the other creatures, was subject to no restraint but the law of God, the law of liberty. Had he continued in this way there still may have been a civil government. There still would have been a need to rightly order society but with the fall of man into rebellion there became a necessity of government to coerce a degree of right living and justice from a mankind fallen from the high road of willing obedience to the loving Father. Contrary to libertarian anarchist views, civil government does have to power to coerce and should do so. God instituted civil government to protect the lives and property of others. This is the purpose of civil government instituted by God. Since civil government is instituted by God then those who serve in it will answer to the one who ordained it. They will answer to how they rule. And since civil government exists to protect good and punish evil it must know what is good and what is evil. The only one who can authoritatively say what is evil and what is good is God almighty.
Again, those in civil government will answer to God for how they rule. This is why King David in his last words to Israel says 2 Samuel 23:3 "The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." God declares what rulers should be and this should guide us as we have been given freedom in this nation to select leaders. Rulers are to be men who are just and rule in the fear of God. Noah Webster, a brilliant man who most know from Webster’s Dictionary wrote an article entitled, “Letters to a Young Gentleman Commencing His Education.” In it he said,
“In selecting men for office, let principle be your guide….It is alleged by men of loose principles, or defective views of the subject, that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations. But the Scriptures teach a different doctrine. They direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God, able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness. But if we had no divine instruction on the subject, our own interest would demand of us a strict observance of the principle of these injunctions. And it is to the neglect of this rule of conduct in our citizens, that we must ascribe the multiplied frauds, breeches of trust, peculations and embezzlements of public property which astonish even ourselves; which tarnish the character of our country; which disgrace a republican government; and which will tend to reconcile men to monarchs in other countries and even our own…When a citizen gives his suffrage [vote] to a man of known immorality, he abuses his trust; he sacrifices not only his own interest, but that of his neighbor, and he betrays the interest of his country.”
We should be looking for leaders who deal justly. This means that they don’t show partiality to the rich or the poor. They don’t pander to identity politics, making promises to people based upon which group will give them votes. They deal fairly. 2 Samuel 23 says they will rule in the fear of the Lord. It is their duty to uphold the kingdom of Christ. There is a difference and even separation between the church and civil government. The Civil Government has not been given the charge to proclaim the gospel or to exercise authority in religion. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the Word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven as the Westminster Confession of Faith rightfully declares. Yet they do have the duty to make sure that the church is protected and that ministers of God are able to do their duty. They also have the responsibility to rule according to the law of God. What God calls a crime they must.
In 1790, Rev Daniel Foster preaching to the civil magistrates in his day said: "If religion is not honored and supported by men in places of public trust, the glory of the Lord will soon depart, and the fire of God be scattered over the city. Rulers are called “the shields of the earth;” they are to protect the people from injuries among men, and likewise from the judgments of God. When God’s wrath was kindled against Israel, for their idolatry at the foot of the mount, we find Moses, that pious ruler, pleading the cause of the people, and he sounds his plea upon God’s covenant, and reminds him of his oath. And David, that man after God’s own heart, when he saw the Angel that smote the people, said, but these sheep, what have they done? “And the Lord said unto the Angel, it is enough, stay now thine hand.” The attention Christian rulers pay to religion in their hearts, and in their government, will be their support when they are called to lay down their commission, and their lives; it will brighten the scene before them, and embalm their memories when they are dead."
We need to be looking for and praying that God will give us civil leaders that do justice and fear him. But if you look around right now, there does not seem to be a lot of these men. We do have what looks like two fundamentally different and opposing sides vying for your vote but yet there seems to be very few if any who are seeking justice and who fear God. What are we to do in this occasion?
I want to point you to Daniel and his friends. They did not take the cheese. They did not take the enticements of the king but they kept their loyalty to the kingdom of God. They served and submitted to the civil government when it did not command contrary to God’s law. But they also withheld themselves from being taken in with the offers from an unjust king who at this point did not fear the Lord. In pointing to them, I am saying when it comes to voting you need to refuse to take the cheese. Ignore all the people offering you different things if only they can have your loyalty. I am not saying don’t vote but I am saying don’t let your vote be swayed by those offering you free healthcare, free college, free anything. Look for those whom you think will best seek justice and fear the Lord. It may be slim pickins but I can tell you right off the bat, those running on a platform that supports and encourages the murder of the preborn are off the list. Those who want to force Christians to celebrate their perversions are off the list. They do not fear the Lord in the least.
Now let me tell you what I am going to do. I know that one party, the democratic party is completely immoral. Almost everything on their platform is an affront to God and an attack on liberty. They have created fictitious rights to sexual perversion, child sacrifice, and other people’s property. In pushing for these faux-rights, they seek to trample under real rights given by God. I also know that they are a party willing throw away due process in order to gain power. They are enemies of Christ. I am going to be voting this week in opposition to this party. However, I am not going to blindly defend the opposition. I am not going to take the cheese of either party and give blind allegiance to the Republicans. When the Republican party acts wickedly and they often do, I will as a pastor remind them of their duty. But I am not going to make worthless unequivocal parallels either. Christians must not be beholden to a party but that does not mean that both parties are equivocal and it doesn't matter which you vote for. The Democratic party platform is wicked and destructive to society. Don't take their cheese. But also don't gorge yourself on the meet and drink of the Republican party either. Don't be those who thoughtlessly defend them at every step. Your allegiance is to Christ Jesus.
As I was preparing this sermon and I was thinking about the principles of civil government and the type of leaders that we should look for and what we have actually before us, I began to mourn. I don’t know if there is another nation in modern history that God has dealt so bountifully with. I can’t think of another country that has been so for a lack of a better word “privileged.” Therefore has there been another nation that has been more ungrateful to him. We have slaughtered millions of preborn while God has provided graciously to us. We have paraded sexual perversion, divorce, and idolatry before him. We have had the gospel go forth across the land and we have seen God deal so kindly to us and yet we have abused that kindness and deserve to be thrust down into the pit of hell. Isaiah’s description of Israel fits us too well: The whole Head is sick, the whole Heart is faint, from the Crown of the Head to the Sole of our Feet, we are full of Wounds and Bruises, and putrifying Sores.
Rather than being obedient to God’s word to not merely look out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others, we have looked out only for our own. And then we look for civil leaders who will pander to these perverted desires. Sadly, while this has occurred much of the leaders in the church have been silent. We have been content with the choice food and wine of the world. We have played the harlot against our Lord Jesus, both in regard to principles and practice. If we go on obstinately in our sins despite the warnings God has given us in his word we shall treasure up unto our selves wrath against the day of judgment.
Psalm 10:16 says The Lord is King forever and ever; Nations have perished from His land.
President Donald Trump is not King. Nancy Pelosi is not King. Bernie Sanders is not King. The Lord is King. And if this nation will not repent and turn to God, it will be another nation that perished from King Jesus’s land.
The Psalm writer wrote: Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law. As we come before a Holy God and hear his word, may we have eyes open to the wonderful and fearful things from his law. May it move us to repent and seek forgiveness, fear disobedience, and live in light of the grace we have received. This is the word of God. It is eternally true and applicable for all of life.
Proverbs 20:21-30 An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning Will not be blessed in the end. Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you. Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, And a false scale is not good. Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, How then can man understand his way? It is a trap for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” And after the vows to make inquiry. A wise king winnows the wicked, And drives the threshing wheel over them. The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being. Loyalty and truth preserve the king, And he upholds his throne by righteousness. The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair. Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts.
We live in a land that has become dependent upon the bitter milk that flows from the breast of big government. To some degree, everyone looks to government with a sense of expectation and entitlement, saying in word and practice: “I am a citizen, and I have rights, give me what I deserve”. Whether it is free Healthcare, free education, or your favorite tax incentive, everyone looks to government to provide for their perceived needs. Our founding documents do offer the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, however, nowhere does it state that it is the government's role to provide those things. The government exists to protect the exercise of our God given rights, not to guarantee outcomes. Equal rights are not synonymous with equal outcomes. Our society is currently selling its soul for the prospect of equal outcomes for all. For far too long our government has stretched its tentacles into areas of life which it has no business being in, engaged in picking winners and losers, instead of fostering an environment where righteousness flourishes and evil is pushed into the darkness. Let's take education for example. The latest statistics suggest that the US spends on average $620 billion per year on k-12 education, combine this with the estimated $80 billion per year spent on public post secondary education (minus student loans), and what you have is a massive tax burden placed on the American people, with results that are abysmal. School shootings, a less skilled workforce, teachers raping students, juvenile delinquency, drugs, skyrocketing debt, and a generation of kids growing up with a sense of entitlement, believing that someone owes them a life of ease and comfort, with no work necessary. These are the fruits of a government and a people who have forgotten why God ordains governments in the first place. So, why does God establish governments? Is it to ensure equal outcomes for all its citizens? No. The proverb tells us “A wise king winnows the wicked, And drives the threshing wheel over them.”
Matthew Henry says this about magistrates: “ What is the business of magistrates? They are to be a terror to evil-doers. They must scatter the wicked, who are linked in confederacies to assist and embolden one another in doing mischief; and there is no doing this but by bringing the wheel over them, that is, putting the laws in execution against them, crushing their power and quashing their projects. Severity must sometimes be used to rid the country of those that are openly vicious and mischievous, debauched and debauching. What is the qualification of magistrates, which is necessary in order to do this? They have need to be both pious and prudent, for it is the wise king, who is both religious and discreet, that is likely to affect the suppression of vice and reformation of manners.”
Romans 13:1-7 tells us this:
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.  For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;  for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.  Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience' sake.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing.  Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”
As Christians, we must repent of trusting in horses, chariots, and man made institutions for our salvation and provision. We must trust in the name of the Lord our God, and love Him, rather than the world and its scheming. Our government exists to punish evil. It should not, it cannot, be used as a substitute for parents teaching and raising their children, for Christians loving the widow and orphan, or as our standard for morality. The authorities are to punish evil, with God's Law as the standard, and the Church is to disciple the nations. How might you need to repent this morning? Church, your heavenly Father loves you. Your Good Shepherd Jesus Christ says “Repent lest you likewise perish”. Won't you heed His call today? If you able, please join us in kneeling as we confess our sins. Praise be to God that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Merciful Father, we are frail, weak, and unprofitable servants. We like sheep have gone astray, and often times we find ourselves chasing after the trinkets and promises that this world and its authorities have to offer. Lord, we know that all the treasures and precious things we store up on earth will be destroyed by moth and rust, with what remains being stolen by thieves. Yet we are stubborn and stiff necked oh Lord. We always seem to return to the bitter well of the world, rather than to the springs of living water. Please forgive us for our idolatry. Please forgive us for our unfaithfulness. Please forgive us for trusting in man, rather than our Creator. In Jesus name we pray, amen.
Listen now to the comforting assurance of the grace of God, promised in the gospel to all that believe:
For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:15-16
To all those who thus repent and seek Jesus Christ for their salvation, your sins are forgiven in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Lift up your hearts!
(From the 7/15/18 liturgy of Sovereign King Church. Written by Aaron Sabie.)
Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away.- John 19:31
The Jews have their hands covered in blood. They have put to death Jesus Christ, the son of God by the hands of the Romans. And now they are worried that the bodies of the men crucified might defile the land. People coming to worship God in the city might pass by the bodies and see the wickedness that had been done. They couldn’t very well celebrate the holiday, the great Sabbath, with bodies hanging nearby. The Romans had no problem with this. To them crucifixion was meant to be a long tortured affair. The Romans left people on crosses for days, in prolonged agony and torture. They were content to allow the wild animals and birds pick apart the carcasses of the victims of the cross. The Jews are squeamish. They just want to be done with the whole thing. They look down upon the Roman gentiles. Those uncircumcised dogs who would dare crucify people. Those Romans are barbaric. Could you pleeeeeeeze just take down the bodies and get them out of here. Whatever you got to do, we can’t be having these people on the cross, during our holidays. Whatever you do, just don’t show pictures of aborted babies at thunder over Louisville? Can you please not preach outside the abortion mill with an amplifier, we are trying to work in here?
The Jews go to Pilate and say “We have to prepare to worship the Holy God of the universe who is a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Him but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Him and keep His commandments, can you go ahead and break his Son’s legs and get rid of the body?" "Can you hurry up and kill them already but don’t show mercy when you do it? "The Proverbs says "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." They had no problem bringing the only innocent and godly person to the cross, and yet has scruples about letting a dead body hang upon the cross.
This week we got a picture of the tender mercies of the wicked in a Supreme Court ruling. Masterpiece Cakes, a bakery in Colorado, had refused to make a cake for a homosexual mirage citing their belief in God’s created order. The two men mocking the ordinance of God and claiming to get married filed a complaint against the Christian bakery regarding discrimination. A local civil rights commission and the Colorado Court of Appeals said that the Christian baker had violated the “civil rights” of the two men. This was appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States. We got the ungodly tyrannical and unjust court decision this week. But wait a second, I thought all the papers said that the bakery won. Well the bakery won their appeal on a technicality. The court ruled 7-2 that the bakery had been unfairly ruled against because the commission had spoken in negative terms of the bakers religion.
The US today had an article entitled “Actually the baker in Supreme Court Masterpiece ruling lost, it only looked like he won.” This is from that article:
"Despite headlines trumpeting a win for the religious baker who declined to make a same-sex wedding cake in the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, he really lost the case. And it seems that so long as Justice Anthony Kennedy remains the swing voter on the court, the right not to be discriminated against in the marketplace will prevail over conscientious objections — whether grounded in religious freedom or a more general freedom of belief — to serving individuals based on their sexual orientation. But how can this be if the baker won the case? The baker did win on the grounds that the Colorado anti-discrimination agency unconstitutionally displayed religious bias when it sanctioned him. But Kennedy’s majority opinion sent every signal that should Colorado again seek to sanction the baker for a future refusal to serve same-sex couples, the state will win so long as it refrains from statements or actions that seem to disparage religion.”
Did you catch that? The ruling of the Supreme Farce I mean Court is not that homosexuality is wicked and abominable or that people have a right to the freedom of association or that Christians have the right to practice their religion in public, the ruling is that the courts and commissions that are going to put Christians out of business better look like they are unbiased as they do it. Go ahead and fine, imprison, and shut down the business of a Christian but just make sure it looks like you are trying to be fair. Make sure you break their legs and get them off the cross before gay pride month and everything will be ok. It’s hypocrisy and wickedness trumping justice.
The ruling is straining out a gnat and swallowing a pink camel with leather chaps. Now, we know the Supreme Court is a tyrannical court having declared murder and sodomy to be legal But in Christians have been legalistic track too, concerned more with themselves than actually helping people. What I mean by that is that the arguments put forth by Christians in these cases have been concerned with only carving out a place at the table rather than standing boldly on the word of God. Instead of standing on the premise that homosexuality is wicked and that the Supreme Court should obey God, we often are looking for ways to carve out a safe place using the term “Religious liberty.”
This cry of "religious liberty" is really just the cry to retreat. What I mean is that in the 1990s when the Supreme Court ruled against sodomy laws, hristians didn’t stand and fight but instead they accommodated themselves to the fact that sodomy was now legal. We retreated to only opposing homosexual marriage. Since the Supreme Court established gay mirage, we are falling back to religious liberty. Matt Trewhella wrote an article a few months ago and made this claim “But here is the rub – If the Supreme Court rules in Jack Phillips favor, the result will be Christians do not have to participate in homosexual marriages, but homosexual marriage remains entrenched in the land.”
His prediction is true. This is from the Supreme Court ruling this week:
"And any decision in favor of the baker would have to be sufficiently constrained, lest all purveyors of goods and services who object to gay marriages for moral and religious reasons in effect be allowed to put up signs saying “no goods or services will be sold if they will be used for gay marriages,” something that would impose a serious stigma on gay persons.”
Notice how the ruling builds off past wicked rulings and entrenches it further. It establishes in the legal fiction of the supreme court and thus in the mind of many Americans that rightness of sodomy. Matt Trewhella further explains:
"And this is what the religious liberty argument accomplishes in this matter – it assures the evil will continue in the land and it accommodates the continued ghettoization of Christianity in America. Evil should be stopped, not accommodated. When the government enacts evil in the land, but they make an accommodation for Christians to not participate in it, they are marginalizing Christianity in the land; they are putting Christianity in the ghetto.”
They are breaking the legs so that they can continue to sing songs on Sunday. We have to be careful that we don’t turn a blind eye to what is right as long as we aren’t personally affected. That’s what the Jews do. John Calvin preached in a sermon saying
“It is a wonderful thing to hear how you talk of justice, as long as it serves to keep your goods safe and to protect your own household. But you let some men get away with robbery, violence, beatings, murder, or whatever they want. We show and teach you that none of this should be allowed. This is why so many get angry when we apply the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to its correct and proper use."
He was saying that some people are ok with justice as long as it personally effects them but as long as they are safe they don’t care what others are doing. Live and let live. And of course Calvin says no, we teach that no injustice should be allowed. And this makes everyone angry. You have to chuckle because not a lot has changed it seems in 500 years.
Today, residents in Clark County, Indiana (the county Sovereign King Church is located in) will vote on a $95 million Public School levy. This tax referendum is a proposal to fund building and renovation efforts for three schools with most of the work being done at Silver Creek High School located in Sellersburg. This proposal, which school board member Brian Guernsey described as “wasteful spending,” will raise taxes on the private property of people in the region. On property valued at $100,000, taxes will raise by around $240 annually. Those in support of the levy argue that it is necessary because of increase of number of public school students at these schools. Those opposed are worried about the increase of their taxes and say that the increase is not needed. How should Christians in Clark County vote on this issue? Is this even a matter for a church to talk about? Does the Bible have anything to say about private property, taxes, and schools?
All of the Bible for All of Life
At Sovereign King Church, we believe that God’s word is the standard for all of life. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” The Bible is the very word of the creator God. And it will equip the man of God for EVERY good work, not just some good work but every good work. As Jesus said “Man shall not live on bread alone but on EVERY word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” God’s word will equip us for every area of life. Furthermore, Jesus has been give ALL authority in heaven and on earth. He is the Sovereign King and all people should adhere to his commands. Christianity is not a religion that you keep in the privacy of your home and church building. It makes demands on every area of life, including politics. Christ has commanded the Church to make disciples and teach them to obey all of his commands. Putting all of that together, yes the Bible should inform and guide our decisions and even our votes. Yes, the Church should instruct on what the Bible has to say about this matter. So, what should Christians think about taxes, and private property taxes in particular?
New Testament on Taxes
There is an old saying that the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. I’d like to add to that school levy proposals. When it comes to thinking about taxes in the Bible, immediately a few New Testament passages come to mind, Romans 13, Matthew 17, and Matthew 22. Let’s look quickly at each passage and see if we can glean some principles for Christian thinking about taxes.
Romans 13:6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
When we usually think of Paul’s letter to the Romans, we think of his detailed exposition of the gospel of grace alone through faith alone but Paul also gives a lot of instruction for Christian living. In chapter 13, Paul gives the Christian view of civil government. In verse 7, Paul tells us to pay our taxes. In verse 6 and the preceding verses, Paul tells us why. We are to pay taxes because civil rulers are to be servants of God devoting themselves to this very thing. What is the very thing? In verses 3 and 4, Paul tells us that they are servants of God to punish evil. Paul calls the civil magistrate a minister of God who is an avenger to bring wrath on those who do evil. In other words, the civil government exists for one primary purpose, to punish crime. The task of the civil government is to protect the rights and peace of the people by punishing crime. In order to do their job, God has authorized civil government to collect taxes. The declaration of Independence talks about protecting the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The original draft by Thomas Jefferson says life, liberty, and property. While certainly not inspired scripture, this declaration has a good grasp on the purpose of government. To summarize this passage on taxes, the civil government exists to punish crime and that is why we pay taxes.
Matthew 17 24 When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” 25 He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. 27 However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in 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 you and Me.”
In this passage, Peter is approached by tax collectors and asked if Jesus will pay the tribute. This tax was based on the tribute tax for the temple. It was a set tax for every individual to pay for temple needs. When Peter enters the house, Jesus asks Peter a question, “Peter, do the kings make their sons pay taxes or just strangers?" Peter says the strangers, of course. Jesus responds by saying that the sons are exempt. The implication is that because this tribute was for the temple of His father, Jesus the Son was exempt. Yet so as not to cause an uproar, Jesus pays the tax by way of performing a miracle to again show he is the Son of God. What do we learn from this passage about taxes? Jesus voluntarily submitted to pay taxes when he was under no obligation to do so. The reason was he did was so that he would not cause offense. Jesus paid the tax because he was prudent and wise. He would not have been sinful to not pay the tax but because of wisdom he paid it.
Matthew 22: 15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17 Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He *said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They *said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He *said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.
Unfortunately and far too often, this passage is used as a proof-text to affirm any and all taxes. It is used to guilt Christians into voting for all kinds of tax increases and to justify all types of government abuse. Notice that this passage begins with people trying to trap Jesus. They aren’t asking an honest question about taxes but are trying to trip up Jesus. Rob Slane gives a good description of this passage :
“Picture the scene. Jesus, the Son of God, is standing in the Temple of God a few days before his execution. The Pharisees and Herodians come along and, after attempting to flatter him, ask him a question of profound difficulty: Is it lawful to pay tribute to Caesar? Answer “no” and Jesus gets reported to the Romans as a revolutionary. Answer “yes” and the whole of Israel will hear of his treason. But of course Jesus gives a different answer entirely. An answer that is as astonishing now as it was then. Not only does he get himself out of the trap that they have just set for him, but by the time his words sink in, he is standing on the edge of the trap, looking down at his flailing opponents who have just fallen in themselves.”
This passage is not primarily about the legitimacy of taxes. It is about who side Jesus is on. Is he on the side of the pagan rulers or the side of those wanting to overthrow everything? Rob Slane explains:
"One thing that we often miss is the high irony of this incident. Yet it is irony on steroids. When they ask him the question, Jesus specifically asks them for a coin. He has no real need to do this. He could have just made his point by mentioning the fact that they already use Caesar’s coin. So why does he do this? I think he does it to make a point. When the coin is produced, there is a juxtaposition of immense proportions going on. The coin is brought out and Jesus asks them whose is the image and inscription on the coin. We all know it was Caesar’s, but what is less well known is the inscription: “AUGUSTUS TI CAESER DIVI AUG F” meaning “Augustus Tiberius Caesar, son of the Divine Augustus”. On the flip side of the coin, there was almost certainly a picture of Tiberius dressed as a priest, with the title “PONTIFEX MAXIMUS” – High Priest. So picture the scene. There is the Son of God, the great High Priest, being asked by his enemies who hate him whether it is lawful to pay taxes to one who blasphemously pretends to be Son of God and great High Priest. The Pharisees understand the blasphemous pretentions to divinity of Caesar. What they don’t understand is their own blasphemies. They ask a question about paying tribute to little Caesar on his tiny coin, but the irony is they refuse to pay tribute to the eternal Son of God and High Priest who is standing in front of them."
Jesus answers their trick question with a brilliant answer. He says give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God. Now this leaves the Pharisees with the heavy lifting to do. They are put in the hot seat. What belongs to Caesar? Well Caesar is going to claim everything. What belongs to God? Everything. It is now the Pharisees who have to work out these two competing claims.
What are the implications for us from this passage? Well, we too have to answer the question: What belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God? We know that all things belong to God. Therefore, the civil government doesn’t get to claim all things. This passage does not give carte blanche to every tax scheme. Nor does it authorize civil magistrates to do anything they want to do.
Summary of Passages
Having looked at just a few of the passages, we see that rather than scripture giving civil government an all-encompassing power to tax everything for any purpose, the civil government does have the power to tax but it is for a specific purpose. It has been authorized to tax so that it can do its job of punishing crime. Caesar does not have the right to lay claim to everything but instead his authority is limited to what has been delegated to him by God. We also see that Christians should pay their taxes because God has authorized civil government to tax. In the case where civil government demands taxes that may not be authorized by God, we should be prudent and wise. Rather than operating in open rebellion by refusing to pay taxes, we should consider the wisdom of Christ in not causing offense. Our paying these types of taxes does not make them legitimate nor does it mean that we can't work to eliminate them.
In short, government can collect taxes for a limited purpose. Christians should pay legitimate taxes and use wisdom in paying illegitimate taxes. There is much more to be said about taxes because we haven’t even looked at the Old Testament on taxes. In the Old Testament law, we see what the ideal tax should look like. To quickly summarize that material, tax in the law of God was a flat rate paid by everyone. It was a very small amount. Whenever the kings demanded too many taxes their kingdom languished. So what about Christians voting for tax increases and public schools? With a proper understanding of taxes, can we answer how Christians should think about voting for tax increases?
Love, Private Property, and Theft
In our system of government, we don't have a king who gets to issue edicts and establish taxes by his say alone. On the federal level, congress has the power to tax. On a very local level, we have often have elections for special taxes. In the case of the Clark County School Referendum it is the people of Clark County who are acting as the civil government in deciding to tax. As Christians, when we vote we need to honor God and his commandments. We need to remember the purpose of civil government. It is to punish evil. We also need to ask ourselves what type of tax is being proposed and is it legitimate. Does the tax itself undermine a biblical truth?
The second of the greatest commandments is to Love your neighbor as yourself. We are commanded to love.
1 John 5: 2-3 says “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.”
Love in the bible is defined as keeping God’s commandments. If we Christians are going to love our neighbor as ourselves, then we just look to God’s law to see how to love. God’s moral law is summarized in the 10 commandments. One of the commandments is thou shall not steal. Another commandment is thou shall not covet. Enshrined in two of the ten commandments of God is the right to property. Private property rights are upheld all throughout scripture. When someone owns property, they are given rights to that property by God. They are not to have that property taken from them by anyone involuntarily. Verse after verse through the bible upholds private property.
The Westminster Catechism describes our duties under the 8th commandment not to steal:
“The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbor's wealth or outward estate.”
And it also describes what is forbidden by the 10th commandment to not covet:
“The tenth commandment forbiddeth all discontentment with our own estate, envying or grieving at the good of our neighbor, and all inordinate motions and affections to anything that is his.”
If we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, we cannot deprive our neighbors of their property or their right to do with their property as they please. This is what makes private property taxes most heinous. Unlike the flat-rate poll tax instituted in the Bible, property taxes undermine the very notion of private property enshrined in scripture. When the civil government places a tax on private property it is laying claim to that property. It is in effect saying, “you don’t own your property, the civil government does.” When we get together as a community and vote to raise private property taxes, we are saying “ you don’t own the property, the community does.” A vote to raise private property taxes is a vote that undermines what God has protected in his word. It is what someone has called “Legalized plunder.” As a Christian, to vote for more taxation on private property is to vote for a tax that undermines the protections of private property. Put out your mind any notion of you voting give of your money, you are voting to take property from your neighbors.
Futhermore, we need to ask ourselves if taking money from people who homeschool, send their kids to private school, or do not have children to fund the education of other people’s children a legitimate purpose of government. In other words, does this school levy pass the Romans 13 test for legitimate taxes? Remember God’s word says we pay taxes so that the civil magistrate can punish evil and protect good. Our taxes are to help the civil government punish crime and provide for defense of life, liberty, and property. While some kids may think school is like punishment, public school does not fall under the legitimate responsibility of the civil government. This will drop led balloon for many people but no where in scripture is the civil government authorized by God to provide education for children. This is a responsibility left to the parents of children. Furthermore, nowhere are Christians authorized to take from their neighbor to pay for the schooling of their children.
Vote No on More Taxation
This school levy undermines the principle of private property found in scripture. It is not a legitimate form of taxation found in scripture. Christians may out of prudence and wisdom pay property taxes that have already been established but they should not be found trying to increase them. Instead, Christians should work to establish alternative ways to pay for education of children and furthermore they should consider that the civil government has not been given that responsibility. Christians in Clark county should vote no for this tax increase because it does not further a legitimate function of government and because it involves a tax that undermines the private property rights of others.