Saturday, December 4, 2010

i already gave, i was taxed

Indeed, I could imagine that if the New Testament is our literal guide, then the standad tax rate for Christians should be set at 100%
John Caputo, What Would Jesus Deconstruct, p 93

That is an interesting claim. His support for it?

The early Christians lived in common and distributed to one another according to their needs; in fact, one of the first disputes to break out in the church was whether this distribution was truly equal (Acts 6:1).

And Acts 6:1 says...

Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.

An interesting claim. I would certainly like to see how that equates into Christians needing to be subjected to a 100% tax rate.

I've heard that claim about the early church before, or something similar. For my part, I have to question if what the early church practices were so much like the communism people like Caputo seem to want.

For example, here are Acts 2: 46-47

So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

And also Acts 4:32-35

Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked, for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things they sold, and laid them at the apostle's' feet, and they distributed to each as anyone had need.

Again, fascinating. At the risk of being contrary, I think it would be safe to say that this must mean that not all homeowners sold the homes they were living in--it hardly seems to be smart to help others by making ones so destitute that one must then become a part of the supported. Though the idea that it may have been an extra home or excess land is interesting.

But one things is pretty clear--this is something the people were doing themselves, of their own accord. It was not coerced by the church, as the account of Peter's confronting Ananias and Sapphire shows. It was their own money, they could have done with it as they wished, their sin was not in keeping back a part of it, but in lying about it.

Nor was it normative. People may make much of Jesus telling a rich young ruler to sell all he had, but so far as I can remember, that was the only person to whom Jesus said that. He seemed quite pleased enough that the tax collector Zacheaus gave half (I can well image a Caputo smirking that it was 'only' half), and seems to have not held it against Lazarus and his sisters that they had their own house, but rather accepted their hospitality in allowing Him and his disciples to sometimes stay there (which likely meant it was a pretty large house, since it could hold so many guests).

This is telling, for Caputo writes things like this...

I may be forgiven (I depend a lot on the Christian virtue) if I have concluded that the private-charity argument is a cynical cover for greed, which has a way of working thigns out so that I get to keep as much money as I can for myself and let the poorest of the poor go to the devil.
p 93

What is telling is that, after saying that, he looks to the early church for support for his positions. But the early church was practicing private charity, not tax and redistribute. They certainly weren't being funded by the government of Rome or of Israel, and not by the Jewish religious authorities (unless those were themselves private individuals giving to the church, which ones like Nicodemus may well have done). It was members, be they individuals or families or maybe some small group or two of them, who of their own accord (with the leading of the Spirit, perhaps) sold their own things and gave the proceeds to the church (not sold their own things and then waited for the various governments to tax them) so that those the church set in place to provide those in need may do so, not let far-off government bureaucrats decide issues of welfare.

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