Volume 10, Issue 2: Repairing the Ruins
Giving Unto Caesar
"Whose is this image and superscription?" (Matt. 22:20). This was the question that Jesus asked the Jews when they sought to entrap Him by asking whether it was lawful for them to pay taxes to Caesar. The coin to which Jesus was referring when He asked this question was a denarius, a silver coin used to pay the poll tax. To most Jews, it was a hated tax that symbolized Jewish submission to Rome.
Today, we pay taxes with fiat money, made of paper and ink, or cheap alloys, with little to no intrinsic value. Our taxes, like the poll tax of Rome, demonstrate our submission to our government. Of course, those under the rule of Rome paid more than just a poll tax, and so do we, in spades.
On the average, the income that most Americans earn from January through June or July of each year is the amount required to pay all of their taxes, federal, state and local. Although most of what the federal tax revenue is used for is unconstitutional by a Jeffersonian (strict) understanding of the Constitution, the Hamiltonian (loose) interpretation has clearly won the ascendancy in our land.1 As a consequence, we as taxpayers are forced to pay for things we never would have if the Constitution had been interpreted in the same vein in which it was written. For example, the U.S. Constitution only grants Congress the authority to "lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the Unites States. . . ."2 Note that even Alexander Hamilton who subscribed to a loose interpretation of the Constitution did not think that Congress could authorize the building of such internal improvements as canals.3 And if not canals, how about schools?
Today, most American Christians do not find fault with the idea of tax-supported schools because of the prevalence of the idea that a well-educated electorate will make a stronger nation. While the concept is in general true, the means are as critical as the ends. Most Americans would argue that "public education" falls under the heading of the "general welfare" clause found in the Constitution. But this belies our understanding of the document in the context in which it was written. "General welfare" simply referred to the well-being of the citizenry, meaning the protecting and preserving of their liberty to pursue godly goals.4
Neither is the government school system today a charity. Charity is not something that is coerced or extorted by force from the provider. If someone were to forego paying their property taxes as an expression of their opposition to the government school system, even on property to which they held the title paid in full, they could still be subject to the loss of their property for refusal to pay.
Most Christians today would more than likely consider such a tax-evader as unbalanced or at least a foolish trouble maker. But what if the government were Muslim, and the Christians were being taxed to finance government schools to teach their children the Muslim religion? Would the Christians then be so quick to bring condemnation against such a tax evader?
"Get real!" someone will say. "The government isn't Muslim and no one's children are being forced to learn the Muslim religion or any other religion!" Oh no? In 1961, even the U.S. Supreme Court admitted that secular humanism is a religion.5 Since the government schools are not allowed to proclaim the Trinitarian God of the Bible as the Creator and Sustainer of all, then by default they necessarily proclaim the antithesis, that man is the creator and sustainer of all, specifically through the means of government.
Further, whether parents want their children to be instructed in the government schools or not, the fact that a segment of the society is being forced to subsidize a system that is antithetical to their beliefs is surely a form of tyranny. To which some reply, "Let `em leave if they don't like it!" This type of response further demonstrates the ruthless nature of democracy and the fallacy of a "pluralistic" society. In a pluralistic society, toleration of all is preached until those who are seeking power finally attain it, and then "toleration" is only for those who side with the position of those in authority. The rest are shouted down as extremist kooks or else they're allowed to have "a place at the table" from which they can dialogue (anything to keep them "patsy-fied").
This is not freedom. And what's more, such a coercive government wants control of the minds of the people. What better way to do it than to control the schools and their curriculums, and get the parents to pay for it to boot!
Although some states have enacted laws to limit the amount of taxes a homeowner may have to pay (to prevent them from losing their homes when they are beyond the age when they are allowed to work), such actions still do not go far enough. Coercive taxation for the indoctrination of the citizens is unjust. You can bet that non-Christians would scream if Christians were allowed to forcefully take money from those of other religions and use it to instruct their children in the Christian faith. But like a lobster trap, it only works one way, and the Christians today are trapped and paying for it.
Man is created in the image of God (Gen 1:26; 9:6). Man, and hence, our children, bear God's image. Because of this, Christians should also take to heart the rest of what Jesus said to the Jews, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matt 22:21). Christians should be the first to seek an end to the coercive taxation that requires them to finance the state-controlled system of godless education, not fight to preserve it.