Kansas City native Calvin Trillin is an American author, journalist and humorist. He is a long time food writer for The New Yorker.
In 2012, Trillin was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor for Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff, published by Random House. He often speaks of his late wife, Alice, who was an accomplished author, educator and “long time muse to her husband.”
In the book, he writes about “the Alice Tax.” Never heard of it? On the eve of our tax deadline in America, consider this.
It seems Trillin’s wife, believed in a surcharge on income over one million dollars that would bring the tax to 41%. At one point Alice believed that after a certain amount of income, the government should confiscate the rest! Trillin wrote, “the Alice tax is meant as Alice’s contribution to national economic policy.”
Although I’m not in danger of falling into the tax bracket of “the Alice Tax,” somehow the concept is not very appealing to me. Like many Americans, I’m not very happy about the out of control spending in Washington.
Furthermore, our tax dollars support obscene art, fund organizations that perform abortions, and subsidize brothels in Nevada. Added to that are expenditures on programs that are wasteful, extravagant, or just plain ridiculous. For instance, the NIH has given $1.5 million to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts to study why 75% of lesbians in the United States are overweight and why most homosexual males are not.
Forget the “Alice Tax,” these examples make writing a check to “The United States Treasury” a bit distasteful. But do Christians have a moral or conscientious right to refuse to pay taxes?
The issue is not new. The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?”
The Jews hated the Roman rule. The emperors were immoral, depraved tyrants. The Roman Emperor, Tiberius, who was in power during Jesus’ life was notorious for his sexual perversity. Political opponents were executed. Governors were corrupt. Pagan gods were worshiped. And Jewish tax dollars funded it.
So, Jesus gave them permission for tax evasion. Right?
He said show me a coin. Then asked whose inscription was on it. When they answered, “Caesar’s.” He said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matt. 22:15-22).
When Peter was asked if Jesus paid the temple tax, the Lord instructed him to pay the tax. Not because he was required, but to set the proper example (Matt.17:24-27).
But what were Christians told to do after the church was established? Revolt? Rebel? Refuse to pay taxes to an ungodly government?
No! Paul said, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God..For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. (Rom. 13:1, 6-8)
From these texts we learn at least five things:
1. Jesus and His followers paid their taxes.
2. Christians, who owe a duty to God’s Kingdom, also have obligation to the Kingdoms of men.
3. Our secular responsibilities are based on our spiritual values.
4. We owe respect to those in positions of governmental authority.
5. Christians have a higher calling to be honest, ethical, and honorable.
So, as the tax deadline nears, and this year because Friday is Emancipation day we have an extension until April I8th, I must “render unto Caesar” his just due. Write a check. And “provide things honest in the sight of all men.”
Maybe I should just be thankful that the “Alice Tax” is not a reality that taxes both my income and honesty.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman