The writer of the Jan. 14 letter on the biblical duty to pay taxes seems to suggest that a citizen must be a servant of an expansive state.
The verse in question, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” doesn’t describe the complete idea of our responsibility to governing authorities. We must reserve the right to reject things that we consider immoral or oppressive. Our highest authority is not to the state but God, as a few examples in the Bible illustrate. Moses was born at a time when all male children were to be killed, but his parents found a way to save him. Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt instead of putting Jesus at risk of murder by Herod.
Surely we render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but at what level do the demands of the government become oppressive? In the United States, we have federal, state and, in some cases, local income taxes, wage taxes, Social Security taxes, sales taxes, estate taxes, an alternative minimum tax, real estate taxes for the county, school and city and gasoline taxes, not to mention permit and license fees. The list is almost endless and the burden of taxation can easily exceed 50 percent of a household’s income.
Given the level of taxation in this nation, it is possible for a person earning approximately $50,000 a year to quit his job, become a welfare recipient and maintain an equivalent standard of living. Something is clearly wrong when the state confiscates such a high percentage of one’s hard-earned income that welfare is a more appealing choice.
Taxes are too high and the tax return is too complicated. It is oppressive to be compelled to give ever increasing sums to Caesar. God requires only a tenth, but the bloated Caesar can’t make do with 40 or 50 percent. Caesar should go on a diet and drastically reduce his consumption of American tax dollars. Caesar can be trusted with neither our lives nor our income.
The founding fathers established the framework for government outlined in the Constitution whereby American citizens would not be slaves to the state. Abraham Lincoln expressed the founders’ understanding of the relationship of the governing authorities to the people in his memorable address when he asserted that we are to have a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The government exists for the people, not the people for the government.
Marian W. Sanders