I’ve been thinking a lot about the crisis in Madison and how the various issues relate to the gospel and hence to the heart of the Christian. So today I’ll share some thoughts on the paying of taxes as it relates to the crisis in Madison, Wisconsin.
Here’s what the Apostle Paul had to say about governing authorities and the paying of taxes:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval,  for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.  Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.  For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.  Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7 ESV)
Much could be said about this passage and our troubles in Madison but I’ll limit my thoughts to the tax issue and the governing authorities.
Please note that in verse 4 Paul says the governing authorities are God’s servants “for your good.” This is, in my opinion critical in understanding what the role of any government should be. Governments exist “for your good” or to put it another way the “common good” of the citizen.
This does not mean that the governing authorities always exercise their authority for your good or the common good. In fact, it’s often quite the contrary. It simply says it is God’s intent for government that the governing authorities are to serve the common good.
Paul goes on to say in verses 6-7 that the Christian is to pay their taxes because the governing authorities are supposed to be collecting them for the common good. The government if it’s interested in being God’s servants should ask what exactly is the common good the taxes are being used for and are we (the governing authorities) being good stewards of the tax money we collect?
Given the massive amounts of debt the US (and some states) owe it should be pretty clear governments have not been good stewards and as a result the common good is not being served. Governor Walker and the Republicans are trying to fix this and whether they realize it or not they are being consistent with God’s intent that the government serves the common good.
Notice that Paul does not further qualify the paying of taxes. He just says pay them. But that does not mean we should not protest the paying of taxes when it seems the common good is not being served or good stewardship being practiced. We’re all familiar with the multitude of “bridges to no where” and pork barrel spending that benefit relatively few.
The gospel-centered Christian then pays his taxes and does not cheat but at least in America still has the right to protest the paying of taxes for the right reasons. When the people of Wisconsin elected Governor Walker we knew exactly what we were getting and he was elected because so many people in our state are sick of out of control spending and the resulting debt.
Here’s how I think this specifically applies to the business in Madison.
The people of Wisconsin pay taxes to support the wage and benefit packages of the public sector employees who are represented by public sector unions. If we protest the use of those taxes for the public sector employees because we are jealous of their generous wages and benefits then it’s we who are not being gospel-centered. Class envy in any form is not consistent with what Scripture teaches.
Politicians of both parties gave them the generous packages they have received. They simply passed on the cost to the rest of us by raising more taxes and for a while it worked splendidly not only here in Wisconsin but throughout the US.
To be jealous of the wages and benefits the public sector employees receive is akin to being jealous of anyone who is doing better than you might be. Not only that, we should be mad ourselves for continuing to elect politicians who were not keeping their eye on the bottom line!
The solution is not wishing we have it as good as they. I say this because some idiot said let’s not take away the public sector wages and benefits but let’s give them to everyone. Where the money is to come from for this stupid idea is a mystery. Oh yeah, tax the rich.
Our state faces a billion dollar problem (through 2012) if we do not get it together. The solution is not to raise taxes because each time taxes are raised it detracts from the common good (and personal liberty). For example, if my taxes go up by $100.00 I have $100.00 less disposable income that I could use to buy whatever it is I might want to buy. This in turn has an effect on employment or should I say unemployment because companies lay off people when they do not have orders for whatever it is they make.
Some taxes are necessary for the common good (roads, bridges, for example) but a careful balance should be maintained since masses of unemployed people are clearly not a “common good.”
Governor Walker (and the Republicans finally) are on the right side of the tax issue because they are doing it for the right reasons. They have the common good in mind and balancing the budget is simply good stewardship that serves the common good of all Wisconsin citizens.
And that’s the way I see it.