Saturday, November 10, 2007

Render unto Caesar ....

that which is Casear's. And render unto God that which is God's. Jesus said that about paying taxes. Jesus and taxes have been in the news this week as Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley asked several ministries to account for how they spent their money. The ministries involved include some of the so-called "prosperity gospel" teachers - Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar among them.

Let me preface this post with two facts:

1) I serve on the board of a non-profit ministry; and

2) I work for the Federal Government, so taxes pay my salary.

A friend of mine and I had a back and forth over this. His basic premise is that the State cannot tell the church what to do, i.e., the state cannot be all up in the church's work because (a) it has not been given that authority and (b) tax exemption implies sovereignty over someone and the church is supposed to be subject to God only.

Okay, I'll give him that. I don't want the government in all my business either, and I don't agree with everything that Uncle Sam spends my tax money on. But part of the exemption granted under 501c3 status is that non-profit organizations make a full disclosure of their finances (a form 990) if asked. But that's where the rub comes in with Bros Copeland, Dollar and others. They are considered churches, and are not required to file a 990.

Senator Grassley has given the ministries until December 6th to respond.

Constitutional issues aside, I must admit being surprised by all the uproar. If the ministries have done nothing to violate the Federal tax code, they have nothing to fear. They can open the books and say - here it is, here is what we received, what we spent, how we spent it and what we have left.

If there has been honesty, then they will be found to be honest. If they have tried to sidestp the law and keep their exempt status, they should be afraid. Why? Because the government we have is given to us by God (See Rom 13:6,7). I might not like it, I might disagree with its policies, but in the United States the way to express my grievance is most appropriately in the voting booth.

No one likes an audit; I wouldn't like one either. It makes you look dishonest even if you haven't been because otherwise why would Uncle Sam be poking his nose in your business?

But in the age of Enron and other corporations bilking their investors out of billions of dollars, keeping everything above board is not only necessary for financial safety, but to preserve the integrity of all ministry.


Ned Netterville said...

Jesus, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, but render unto God what is God's.

Inquisitor: "But Jesus, what is God's and what is Caesar's?"

Jesus, "What do the Scriptures say?"

IQ, "Ah, Psalms 24:1 says, "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it."

Jesus, "You have answered well my child."

IQ, "But what then is Caesar's?"

Jesus, "The rest is his."

IQ, "I don't get it."

Jesus, "Neither does Caesar. But don't feel bad, Christian-church scholars have misinterpreted these explicit words of mine for 17 centuries, ever since their church was enthralled by Rome and they began to receive a share in the booty. I told them they could only serve one master, but, nooo, they were loyal, patriotic citizens of the State. Even when their other master turned them into tax slaves they remained loyal subjects, if rather subjugated ones. There's just no accounting for the depth of stupidity among those who try to serve two masters."

Ned Netterville

Anonymous said...

I would remind my dear brother that both Paul and Peter said to submit to the authorities that God has placed over us.

Paul even went so far as to say that believers should pay their taxes (Rom 13:1-6). Peter also says

13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

Granted, believers are not obligated to obey the powers if they ask us to disobey God - such as renoucning Christ or acting in a way that is biblically prohibited.

However, paying taxes is not. Yes, the "earth is the LORDS's and the fullness thereof" but the earth also includes the powers ordained of God to keep order. They are put there to govern his world, whether we agree with them or not. So trying to find a way to skate around paying taxes on multimillion dollar income just makes the people who do it look dishonest.