THINK of it! Out of an eight-hour workday you labor the first two, three or even four hours just to pay direct taxes. And this says nothing of the indirect taxes and fees you pay which are already hidden in the prices of what you purchase. How did this system of taxation get started anyway?
How It Began
The principle of taxation has been used by human governments since ancient times. In Bible history it began with King Saul, 3,000 years ago. Sometimes taxes. took the form of rent like dues on land. Or perhaps a duty levied on commerce. Or it might have been a head tax, such as one decreed by Caesar Augustus, recorded in Luke 2:1-3. But governments long ago generally did not rely on a wide range of taxes for the bulk of their revenue. It is only in the last few hundred years, with the rapid growth of trade and industry, that a diversity of taxes began to constitute an important part of national revenues. It was then that centralized governments in Europe replaced the older feudal system. Simple land dues were expanded into property taxes, eventually including taxes on houses and personal property. Import-export duties and excise taxes became more numerous as world trade flourished. Finally, the income tax arrived a tax on the earning level of one's profession. Needless to say, the temptation to tax has not been resisted by most tax planners and legislators. Now governments in the industrial world depend so heavily on these diverse taxes that they cannot reduce them without major economic dislocation. Certainly government needs some kind of income to enable it to provide essential services to its citizens, to oversee an orderly functioning of the nation and to pay needed government employees. But the humanly devised systems of taxation many nations are saddled with today are complicated, burdensome and, by common admission, have gotten out of control. Worldwide, there is much discussion about overhauling existing tax systems, but it seems few people realize there is a better way altogether!
A Better Plan
There is indeed an alternative to problem — riddled methods of taxation. U.S. President Ronald Reagan himself once alluded to it in a news story, which though it did not make major headlines, should have. He stated to some reporters: "The Lord — really, we could copy Him a little bit. The Lord had a pretty simple tax plan — tithing — that His share is a tenth." To this he added: "When we start computing Caesar's share it gets a little bit out of line." Does it ever! We've already commented on just how much out of line Caesar's — that is to say, human governments' — tax demands often become. But what was President Reagan talking about, God's "simple tax plan — tithing"? What is "tithing"? The word tithe is an old English word. It is found in many English translations of the Bible. It merely means "tenth." God's plan — it really isn't a "tax" — is actually a prior claim; or, as Mr. Reagan said, "His [God's] share is a tenth." His share of what? God, of course, already owns all things. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof [yes, everything on it and in it]; the world, and they that dwell therein" (Ps. 24:1). Even we ourselves belong to him, because he created everything. And everything is his. All the wealth we produce comes from the earth — God's earth. Gold, silver, iron and other minerals, petroleum, agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting, livestock production — all depend on and come from the earth. God has a prior claim, by virtue of creation, to it all. But he is generous. For our use of, his abundant raw materials, his ample space and his bountiful energy sources, he requires not a half, not even a third, but only 10 percent of the profit made. Eminently fair. Some people think tithing began with the law of Moses and that it is not in force today. Not true! Tithes were paid to God long before the nation of Israel existed. The Bible specifically mentions tithing centuries before, in the time of Abraham (Gen. 14:20) and again in Jacob's day (Gen. 28:22). Later, when Israel did become a nation directly ruled by God, he ordained that the tithe — 10 percent of one's profit, or adjusted gross income — be paid to him to support his chosen representatives (Lev. 27:30; Num. 18:21). Under the tithing program God provided the national defense by divinely intervening in human affairs. He intervened in nature through earthquakes, hail and floods to punish the military adventures of the nation's enemies. Ancient Israel did not need a standing army so long as they obeyed God. God was their protector — a God of war and a God of peace. But when the nation sinned, enemies overran the land. God let Israel's enemies punish them till they turned to him again. But in the days of Samuel the nation wanted a human king in place of God. They wanted a standing army to protect them. They began to want increasing government services. So God gave them their wishes. He gave them a king — Saul. And King Saul — who was going to pay his way? The prophet Samuel made it plain. In addition to God's tithe owed him, the human king would require taxes to run his government and pay his army. His tax rate would begin at 10 percent. (See I Samuel 8, especially verses 15-18.) Saul's, or, if you please, Caesar's, 10 percent would be only a start. Under God's government the citizens of Israel had the ideal national system. It was both fair and simple. But since the time they adopted a human as their ruler, their tax burdens have not ceased. Jesus, a thousand years later, recognized the right of human government to collect taxes: "Render therefore to Caesar the things [taxes, imposts, fees] that are Caesar, and to God the things [tithes and offerings] that are God's" (Matt. 22:21, Revised Authorized Version). Yes, far from doing away with the tithing law, Jesus taught tithing! Notice what he said to those Pharisees who were excessively diligent in tithing, at the same time neglecting such important aspects of God's law as judgment and love. Did Jesus tell them it was unnecessary for them to tithe? Not at all! He declared that "these [exercising righteous judgment and love] ought ye to have done, and" — here is Jesus' teaching on tithing — "not to leave the other [tithing!] undone" (Luke 11:42). Later on in his ministry Jesus once again repeated the same thing (Matt. 23:23). Jesus did not abolish God's revealed spiritual laws and commandments (Matt. 5:17-18). He said we are to "do and teach" even the "least" of them (verse 19). Many theologians and professing Christians consider the law of tithing to be among the "least" of God's laws. But no matter. Jesus said not to leave the least undone. Under the New Testament, God's tithing law has been changed in one important respect — not abolished, changed (Heb. 7:12). The change is that rather than being paid t9 God for the work of the Levitical priesthood, the tithes are paid to God for the work of the New Testament ministry preaching the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
An Equitable Tax System
At the end of the 18th century, Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations, one of the most influential economic treatises ever written, set forth four commonsense tests by which to evaluate taxation plans. Today, some 200 years later, men have yet to devise and implement a method of national revenue collection that measures up to Adam Smith's perceptive guidelines. Most existing or proposed tax systems don't even come close. God's tithing system, however, surpasses the requirements. The four tests Adam Smith proposed may be summed up in the following four words: equity, certainty, convenience, economy. 1) Equity. As with God's tithing system, which has a prior claim on your income, taxes would be paid at the same rate — 10 percent. Everyone would be in the same bracket. Those who have enough initiative and resourcefulness to become prosperous would not be penalized for their industriousness. (God doesn't penalize the prosperous tither. But people often penalize those who honestly prosper.) No matter how much money a family made, they would still owe, after God's tithe had been paid, only 10 percent in taxes. President Reagan's comment to the reporters on this aspect of God's system was, "The Lord said, 'If I prosper you ten 'times as much, you will give ten times as much.' He didn't say you'll give 70 times as much." 2) Certainty. The percentage in taxes to be paid would not be in doubt. Everybody would know at what rate everybody else was paying. They would know when to pay and how. There would be no need for any loopholes and non-business deductions. 3) Convenience. It would not be difficult to calculate the amount owed. Nor would it be necessary to hire an accountant to wade through long and complicated tax forms. Paying special taxes seems usually to hit a person at an awkward time — when little money is on hand to pay them. God's tithe is, by contrast, the first 10 percent of any profit. And for the person who pays to God the first 10 percent of whatever increase or profit he makes, God promises to make the other nine tenths stretch to cover all needs. 4) Economy. The exaction of taxes seems to need a vast organization to explain and police the system. There are tax collectors, accountants, arbitrary tax regulations changes and court decisions. How different God's tithing system! Tithes paid would arrive at their destination with little more cost than that of postage and handling.
Amazing Prophecy for Today
One of the most striking proofs of all that the tithing law is still in effect today is found in an amazing prophecy about solving financial woes due, among other things, to the high costs of human governments. The prophecy is found in Malachi 3 and 4. Notice the period in history to which it is specifically directed. Verses 1 and 2 of chapter 3 give the time setting as just before the restoration of the government of God at the return of Jesus Christ — "the day of his coming." It is a time when God will intervene in human affairs to prevent world suicide. All of chapter 4 (remember that men divided the Bible up into chapters) is centered around end-time events and the "coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord" (verse 5). This is talking about the time we are living in now — the last days of this civilization. God warns people, laboring under the burdens of taxes and their own personal sins, to repent of their wrong ways. As the prophecy shows, people would ask, "Which wrong ways?" (chapter 3, verse 7). The problem is that people today have not generally been told what is right and what is wrong. They do not know God's laws. In most cases they don't know — they've never heard — that they are living in ways that bring penalties and suffering down upon their own heads. Those who should be "experts" about God's laws either themselves don't know the facts, or, if they do, they aren't saying. God answers this way: "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee?" (verse 8). The people being addressed don't quite get what God is speaking about. How could they rob God? So God replies bluntly: "In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed' me, even this whole nation." There is not a nation on earth to which this does not apply in principle. And there is not a nation on earth that is not suffering financial and economic curses as a result. Here is the quickest way to reduce the burdens • of taxes and generate new personal income and still have all the essentials of human government services. God says we have robbed him "in tithes and offerings." In formulating the law of tithing God put an automatic limit — 10 percent on what would be owed to him. It's not a question of our being generous to God when we pay God his tenth. It doesn't belong to us in the first place! It is God who gives us the other nine tenths. We only begin to be generous to God when we give him offerings over and above his tithe. Listen to the description in Haggai 1:5-6 of what happens when people do not put God first financially. This description pictures rampant inflation eating away at earning power. It pictures agricultural problems that cause food prices to escalate. "Now therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider how you have fared. You have sown much, and harvested little; you eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages earns wages to put them into a bag with holes" (Revised Standard Version). Why these problems? Does this sound familiar where you live? But there is more. "You have looked for much, and, 10, it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? says the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while you busy yourselves each with his own house" (verse 9, RSV). In other words, money that should have gone to God, goes instead to personal interests. Here is what God is finally going to do: "Therefore the heavens above you have withheld the dew, and the earth has withheld its produce. And I have called for a drought upon the land and the hills, upon the grain, the new wine, the oil, upon what the ground brings forth, upon men and cattle, and upon all their labors" (verses 10-11, RSV). Sobering. But it doesn't have to be that way for us. In Malachi 3, God tells us how to receive blessings instead of economic curses: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts [yes, here's a sure way to prove God exists!], if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. "And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes [the way to rid any nation of moth larvae, the corn borer and other such plagues need not be through costly aerial spraying of pesticides or fumigation, but by the nation paying God his tithe!], and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts" (verses 10-11). To any nation that would pay God his tithes and give him offerings in gratitude and that would pay Caesar his dues (see Matthew 22:15-22), the Almighty promises: "And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 3:12). No matter what whole nations do, you, as an individual, can benefit from God's blessings, financial and otherwise. To learn how, read our free booklets Ending Your Financial Worries and Managing Your Personal Finances. Your whole financial picture will light up with hope again!