June 26, 2012

Paté, Parks and Paul the Apostle on Taxes

Here are two different takes on taxes.

From the Fraser Institute, a humorous music video marking tax "freedom" day. Among other things, the singer laments the big bite taxes are taking out of his paté budget.

A Day in the life of Your Taxes.

Here is another take. Trish Hennessy at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives sees taxes as a gift we give one another.

And what does the apostle Paul have to say about taxes?
In his letter to the Romans (13: 1-7), Paul instructs the early Christian community to pay their taxes "as a matter of conscience" because government is "God's servant for good."

John Redekop, past moderator of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches and past president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada expands of this instruction.
... Jesus also addressed the payment of regular political taxes. The Herodians asked him one day, "Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" Jesus' unequivocal response was, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" (Matthew 22: 17, 21). 
Redekop notes that Jesus' exhortation to pay taxes "is particularly telling in that Jesus lived in a colonial setting under an oppressive dictatorship that opposed him and his teaching." (Politics Under God, p105).

He points out the difference between the role of government in Jesus' and Paul's day and the role of government today. "Most governments now undertake major activity in areas such as health, welfare, insurance, emergency relief, disease control, sanitation, hospital services, placement of orphans in care, care for the disabled, control of HIV/AIDS, environmental management, childhood education, higher education, professional training, assistance for the poor and the elderly, pension regulation, maintenance of safety, quality standards in production and trade, child labor, and much more." (Politics Under God, p115)

For Redekop paying taxes is only one of the responsibilities of Christians in civic life. Another part is the requirement to keep calling our governments -- our elected leaders and the civil servants who make public services function -- to live up to their calling as God's servant for good.

Flowers and paté on Valentines Day is one way to express our love for someone. But contributing to make sure our neighbours have clean water to drink, schools and parks for their children, affordable housing and safe streets in vibrant communities is certainly another important way we love one another.