FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 18, number 51, December 19, 2019
“He will take a tenth of your seed and of your vineyards and give to his officers and to his servants.” -1 Samuel 8:15
Christianity always brings freedom. It was for freedom that Christ set us free (Galatians 5:1). Statism, however, as we see it portrayed throughout Europe and increasingly in the United States, is the great killer of freedom. What does Christmas offer people who want to be free? Why is statism woefully lacking in providing what people really want? What is statism? Statism is a philosophy of morality and politics that makes the state the savior of the people—the creator, sustainer, and provider of everyone, cradle to grave. It is the precursor to a one world government with the state as the one, supreme god.
In 1 Samuel 8 the elders came to Samuel, telling him that he had grown old, and that his sons did not walk in his ways. Therefore they wanted a king, just like all the other nations. Samuel’s age, as well as the fact of his ungodly children, were merely convenient excuses for the elders to get what they really wanted. The people of Israel no longer wanted Yahweh as their king. They wanted to be like all the other nations. We know this because when Samuel cries out to Yahweh in prayer concerning the matter, the Lord says to him, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them,” (1 Samuel 8:7). Yahweh then tells Samuel to warn Israel, informing them of the custom of kings who will rule over them.
So Samuel spoke all the solemn words of warning to Israel, telling them they could expect a totalitarian, oppressive existence with ever diminishing freedom and significant loss of income through exorbitant taxation. Not only would their sons be conscripted into military service and offer up their lives for the savior state, their daughters also would become domestic servants for the state. Their sons would slave away in the king’s fields and make his engines of war. The savior state would tax, not merely their income but their capital, the means by which they made their income—their seed, vineyards, donkeys, flocks, and servants. Sooner or later the sons of Israel would cry out to Yahweh for relief, but it would not come. They had chosen unwisely and they would surely suffer for it. It is not that Yahweh, per se, was against Israel having a king. We know this because He later tells them that if they will obey Him all will be well with them and their king (1 Samuel 12:15); but their desire was ungodly, rebellious, worldly. They were looking to the creation rather than the Creator for comfort and sustenance.
The Puritans and Pilgrims who came to America in the seventeenth century were God-fearing men and women who believed the Triune God was their king. And even though, by the time of George Washington’s inauguration in April, 1789, America was deeply imbibing of Jacobin error, which a few months later would engulf France in a godless revolution; nevertheless the vestiges of the Great Awakening, which ended around 1755, were making a significant contribution to our country’s founding. America was clearly a Christian nation in the beginning. The people honored God as their king, and because of this the great American experiment of self-government was able to work. Freedom is only possible if people are moral and people can only be moral if they have faith. As time passed, however, we began to jettison our trust in God for our trust in the state. While this was a long, slow downgrade into statism, our nation began to hurtle downwardly with great rapidity during the Presidency of Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921). As a progressive, Wilson denied the Biblical doctrine of man (this is very sad, considering his father was a Presbyterian minister who taught him the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Confession of Faith). The Scriptures teach that man is the same in every culture, in every age. Wilson believed, however, as all Progressives do, that man is evolving, that the problems he faced centuries ago are not the same ones he faces today. So Wilson was able famously to say, “The Declaration of Independence did not mention the questions of our day. It is of no consequence to us.” He believed that we must reinterpret the Constitution according to the specific needs of the day. He also, therefore, denied the wisdom of Congress hammering out legislation. He believed the President was the man who best had the heart and soul of the populace, that he knew best what the people wanted and needed. Wilson tried to circumvent Congress by appointing committees which supplanted the legislative process. Wilson also gave us the first national income tax. One other thing, Wilson, a Democrat, was an outright bigot and racist who was fully supportive of the eugenics movement of the day to sterilize black people, since he saw them as inferior.
After Israel was delivered from Egyptian bondage, Yahweh gave His covenant people a series of commands on how they were to live as His people. While we cannot apply these principles specifically in every circumstance, they, nonetheless, are instructive, and as the Westminster Confession of Faith teaches, we ought to follow the general equity of the Old Testament judicial laws. Josephus noted, along with many rabbis, orthodox scholars, and the Apocrypha, that God gave three tithes in the Old Testament. The first is called the Lord’s tithe (Numbers 18:21-24), and every household was to give one-tenth of one’s produce or increase of sheep or goats, etc. to the Levites. One tenth of this tithe was to go for the maintenance of the priests who ministered in the tabernacle. The rest of the tithe was to go to the education and welfare of the nation. The Levites were the teachers, musicians, and administrators in the covenant community. The Festival tithe (Deuteronomy 12:6,7, 17,17) was money set aside annually by the head of the household to be used for “religious vacationing”, a sort of forced savings plan for religious observance. Three times per year a family was to make a holy pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the three religious feasts—unleavened bread, weeks, and booths. The Festival tithe was money set aside for the expense of travel, food, and lodging. And the third tithe was the Poor tithe (Deuteronomy 14:27-29), given every three years. So, piecing this all together, a family could expect an annual tax burden of 13.3%. This arrangement obviously demanded a small, de-centralized government. The people were given great freedom in the expenditure of their own resources.
How is statism working out for you? If you are an average, fairly well to do, American, your tax burden now is approximately 58.5% (President Trump’s tax cut has probably lessened your tax burden to some degree). In theory, you are working well into July before you take anything home for yourself. Statism is an insatiable beast that robs people of their hard earned money. The government has no right to take your money as they do. At most you should be taxed 13.3% annually, and there should be no property tax. “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains,” (Psalm 24:1). All the earth belongs to the Lord, not to the government. Any government which taxes your property, given to you by God, is a usurper.
All this talk, however, of exorbitant taxation is a moot point. There is no way to turn this around without a major adjustment. Only one thing can turn usurpers (the tax man) and statists into humble, gracious, servants of people and that is the Biblical doctrine of regeneration. Man must come to see his proud, statist independence from God, and he cannot see it until his rebellious heart is replaced by the heart of Jesus in regeneration (Ezekiel 36-:25-27, John 3:3-5).
When the miracle of regenerating grace comes upon a person, then they gain the mind of Christ (1 Cor.2:16). They are capable of transforming their minds according to the teaching of Scripture (Romans 12:2). They are able to put off the old man, what they were like in their unregenerate state (Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22-24), and to be renewed in the spirit of their minds. They can also put on the new man, who they are now by means of regenerating grace. As the truth of Scripture washes over a person, a family, a church, a community, or a nation, then the cry for freedom to live as we ought under God becomes a burning, insatiable desire.
I am not saying that everyone in a culture must be born again for this to happen, for certainly many unbelievers have this yearning to remain free from statist, government intervention. However this desire is a vestige of Christianity and can easily make a profound impact on many people. This is the heart of the Brexit movement in England led by Nigel Farage and the “America first” movement of President Donald Trump. We see the same phenomenon in many Eastern European nations like Poland which are weary of the dictates of the European Union, particularly in regard to immigration. Statism is big government. It is “big brother” watching over us and taking care of us. Free people are repulsed by him.
Could it be that those who believe in progressive, liberal politics, including income redistribution through excessive taxation, hold to these views for one of two reasons? One, they feel guilty because of all they have and wish to salve their guilty consciences by allowing the government to take their money and our money and do what the church ought to do—Biblically to help the poor. Or two, they are jealous of what others have worked hard to obtain, and believe they consequently are entitled to take what these people now possess. Either way, only the regenerating work of the Spirit can transform people to submit to God as king of all the earth.
1. Westminster Confession of Faith, “Of the Law of God,” Chapter 19, paragraph 4.
2. The Lord’s tithe (10%) and one third of the poor tithe (3%) was all the annual taxation on His people which Yahweh allowed. The festival tithe was a kind of forced saving plan to make the three pilgrimages each year to Jerusalem. The Institutes of Biblical Law, page 52, Rousas John Rushdoony.