There’s a lot of discussion about helping the poor through government programs. We’re told, if you’re a Christian you will support helping the poor through welfare, and if you don’t, you aren’t a real Christian. While I understand the argument, it’s never sat well with me. I think that’s because it doesn’t take the discussion deep enough. It’s a surface argument, a jab, for one group of people to get another group of people to feel bad for their position. This is the first in a small group of articles I’m planning on the deeper subject of Christian giving and welfare, and I think the best way to start is by answering the question: what is Christian giving?
The Bible contains many verses about helping the poor. This is so well-known, and universally accepted, that even non-Christians know this truth. So, knowing that, I’m not going to list references commanding us to help the poor. Instead, I am going to start with a verse that isn’t mentioned very often, about what Christian giving is. It is 2 Corinthians 9:7: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (ESV). The Amplified Bible says that a cheerful giver is someone who’s “heart is in his giving.” When reading that, why is it, that taxes are not the first thing that comes to mind?
Taxes are not charity, they’re supposed to be a membership fee of sorts. We belong to a group of people, Americans, and we are citizens, or members, of the United States. The government was implemented to protect our life, liberty, and our pursuit of happiness. There are operating costs associated with that, and those operating costs are covered by our membership fees, or taxes. Taxes can be, and are, used for things other than operating costs. Some of these things are good, and some are bad, but that will be the subject of a future post. Right now, I’m talking taxes in the most basic form.
Membership fees are a requirement made upon the members. What happens when a member of an organization doesn’t pay the membership fees? In its simplest form, the membership will be canceled. But, it’s a little harder to cancel your membership to a country so, in this case, the government begins with charging late fees. If you continue your delinquency, the government can start removing some of the very things they are sworn to protect, such as property by confiscation and liberty with jail time.
What does this mean? It means that taxes are compulsory, meaning that by definition, taxes do not meet the Biblical requirement of a cheerful giver. A cheerful giver does not give under compulsion. With the exception of a couple of rich celebrities, looking for headlines, how many people do you know that pay their taxes cheerfully? I don’t remember ever hearing someone say, “I’ve paid my taxes,” with a smile on their face. I’ve heard people say, cheerfully, that they’ve paid their taxes on time, but this isn’t the same thing. Being cheerful because penalties have been avoided is not charity.
Charity, is what you give above and beyond taxes. They are two separate things. While some of your taxes certainly go to help people, this is not charity. The help you give through taxes, is compulsive. You can’t opt out. Charity is something you can opt out of, but don’t because it comes from the heart.