Updated July 2013
What gets bigger the more you take from it? As a kid, this was one of my favorite riddles. The correct answer, of course, is “a hole.” The more you take out of a hole, the bigger it gets. However, there is another answer to this riddle — one that seems to elude many people today.
A majority of the voters in the United States think that lower taxes would have an immediate positive impact on them and their families. Many think that government at all levels is far too big, taking away our freedoms and destroying the concept of personal responsibility.
Paradoxically, large numbers of people who claim to want smaller government, lower taxes and more freedom continue to clamor for their “fair share” in a plethora of government-subsidized programs. Each individual who chooses to participate in a government-funded program creates a two-fold demand on the government. First, they create a need for money to pay for the goods or services they would receive. Second, they create a need for more bureaucrats to administer the programs that are supposed to provide those goods and services. The more benefits we receive from government, the bigger it will necessarily become, the further it will encroach on our freedoms, and the more money it will need.
But, the government does not have its own money. All governments get their money by taking it from the people. And there are a variety of ways the government gets this money: income taxes, sales taxes, gas tax, utilities and phone taxes, excise taxes, property taxes, payroll taxes, corporate taxes, license fees, fines, etc. Every single worker in America works from January through May just to meet the government’s voracious appetite for money. In fact, the government’s biggest job has become the redistribution of our money through government entitlement programs. One report notes that the cost of these entitlement programs is actually growing faster than the economy. This means that Americans are wanting “their share” of everyone else’s wages almost faster than those wages can be earned.
Frederic Bastiat, in his booklet The Law, makes this point: “Man can live and satisfy his wants only by ceaseless labor; by the ceaseless application of his faculties to natural resources…. But it is also true that man may live and satisfy his wants by seizing and consuming the products of the labor of others. This process is the origin of plunder.” You and your children should read this short book.
When the laws are changed to allow the government to plunder its citizens, eventually everyone will strive to obtain his share of the plunder (e.g. his share of all collected taxes). And this change of the law into an instrument of plunder creates a contradiction between morality and the law. This will cause a breakdown in morality in favor of the law, especially when the law favors man’s natural inclinations toward selfishness, envy, greed, and irresponsibility.
For example, God’s moral principles say not to steal, but to work with your own hands at that which is good in order to provide for yourself and your family (1 Tim. 5:3-4,8; 2 Thess. 3:10-12) and to voluntarily give to others who have a need (Ex. 20:15; Eph. 4:28; Titus 3:14). Each person has a right to the fruit of his own labor as well as a personal responsibility before God to properly handle and dispose of the fruit of his labor. This is the essence of personal responsibility, stewardship, and the promotion of voluntary charity and justice.
In contrast, a growing number of man’s legislated laws allow one person to receive the fruit of another person’s labor which is stolen by means of the government’s program of legalized plunder. This is done under the guise of a perverted sense of justice. Civil government’s God-ordained jurisdiction of authority primarily consists of “being a terror to evil doers.” This essentially means prohibiting, stopping, and punishing criminal behavior against its citizens. Taxes, which are allowed by law for purposes beyond this limited civil government jurisdiction, are essentially forcible seizure of another person’s property. However, according to Scripture, we are still required to pay these levied taxes.
The law then makes this plundered money available in the form of financial assistance and government-subsidized programs to provide goods and services to people who may or may not have worked to earn any part of that money. This is the essence of dependency as opposed to responsibility, and the promotion of so-called fairness as opposed to biblically-based justice. It is the engine of statism in its many forms, such as economic fascism and socialism. Some have claimed that it is compassionate and charitable to have government to help others. However, true compassionate charity and help from God’s point of view must always be voluntary on the part of the individual doing the giving. Payment of taxes is, by law, non-voluntary and coerced.
Participation in a government-subsidized program (at least when there is a choice not to participate) contributes to a violation of the eighth commandment (Ex. 20:15). It also creates a demand for the government to continue and even increase its plunder.
If we truly want lower taxes and less government involvement in our lives, we must do more than ask our elected officials to do something. They hear our voices, but they see our actions – give me, take care of me, meet my needs, solve my problems, build me a bigger and better safety net.
And for those who say we are just getting some of our money back, there are many problems. To name just a few:
(1) Only a very small percentage of people receiving government program benefits (such as government education) are getting only what they put in — especially when considering their share of the cost of legitimate government services (such as the military, law enforcement, judicial and criminal justice system) from which they already benefit.
(2) Once the government receives your money from taxation, by law and from God’s point of view, it is no longer your money. That is, unless you overpaid your taxes and then you get a refund.
(3) The government must collect several dollars to support the bureaucracy necessary for each dollar redistributed to an individual.
(4) The ends never justify the means. More than good intentions are needed. The means as well as the ends must have God’s approval.
We must choose to not ask for the government’s help whenever we have the opportunity to make that choice. While seeking government entitlement and other assistance programs is not wise and good under most circumstances, there are a few programs that are clearly appropriate and acceptable.
People who are employed by or render services for the government should receive all the benefits which are a part of their compensation package. For instance, the military person or fireman is not only due their wages but they also should receive other promised benefits for services rendered, in the form of retirement, health care, death benefits, etc.
Also, most employees and/or their employers (on behalf of the employee) pay directly into Workman’s Compensation or similar disability plan, and health insurance, life insurance, etc. Employees have a just claim to receive those benefits when eligible. The same can be said of paying directly into other specific programs such as Social Security and Medicare. This is expected and reasonable when the benefits are paid to the employee (or their spouse and dependents upon death) and are tied directly to the contributions paid into the program by the employee and/or their employer. We would add, though, that it would be best to promote government policies that reduce our tax burden and protect the freedom of individuals to invest in private options for the needs that the government programs are attempting to meet.
On a related subject, one would also do well to get good financial counsel and not “put all of one’s eggs in one basket.” For example, due to inflation and the shrinking of the Social Security trust fund each year, it would be wise to establish other holdings (such as owning your own home) and savings and being out of debt as soon as possible.
There is much more which could be covered on this issue. However, in summary, a major Biblical principle to remember here is that one should be content with the fruits of his own labor and that which is voluntarily given to him. One must avoid desiring or receiving the fruits of another man’s labor, which is taken from another on an involuntary basis. (Ex. 20:17; Luke 3:14; Rom. 13:9; Phil. 4:11-13; I Tim. 6:8-10)
When we shoulder our personal responsibilities, rather than expecting the government to come to our rescue, we take a positive step toward lower taxes, smaller government and increased freedom.
Honor widows who are widows indeed; but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God.
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
1 Timothy 5:3-4, 8
For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.
2 Thessalonians 3:10-12
You shall not steal.
He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.
You shall not covet your neighbors house; you shall not covet your neighbors wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Some soldiers were questioning him, saying, And what about us, what shall we do? And he said to them, Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.
For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:8-10