“TAXES AND TITHES”                                           By Pastor YAU

Text: Mark 12:12-17, 41-44                                       June 8, 2008

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   Alice tax law: Author and columnist Calvin Trillin described his wife Alice who held a unique view on income tax. She believed that “after a certain level of income, the government would simply take everything.” She thought that there should be a limit on how much money people were allowed to keep for themselves. Writing in The New Yorker, Trillin said of his wife Alice, “She believed in the principle of enough.” This story appears on April 15 of Our Daily Bread, the deadline date to file income tax.

2)   Jesus tax law: In answering a carefully crafted tricky question by the Pharisees on paying taxes to the Roman Emperor, Jesus told his questioners to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mark 12:17) Jesus was talking about the legitimacy of collecting taxes by governments and the responsibility of citizens to pay taxes. In addition to that, Jesus also talked about the legitimacy of God in demanding gifts from His children and our responsibility in giving tithes and offerings.

 

THE THINGS OF CEASAR: (Taxation)

1)    The authority of taxation: In the very early days of human history, rulers of the land “owned” everything under their control. This idea was inherited by kings, emperors and governments. The idea that “the state owns” the country still is true in today’s society. Anything that is not privately owned belongs to the state. Anyone who lives on state controlled land is subjected to taxation by the state. Since God owns everything under the sun and He gives to governments the privilege and responsibility to govern, taxation is part of that authority God gives to governments.

2)    The need of taxation: The state or government need resources to provide services to its citizens: defense, education, social services, government operation, etc. More sophisticated societies provide other services like transportation, welfare assistance, medical and recreational facilities. The more developed a society is, the more demands from the citizens that government should provide. All the needs and wants of citizens make it necessary to pay tax so government can provide services.

3)    The duty of taxation: As citizens demand governments to provide services, they are responsible for the resource needed to provide services. It is a fair share of resources by citizens with government so their needs and wants might be provided. Paying tax is a duty citizens owe to the government. No one should complain paying taxes. No one should ask something for nothing. Christians should be willing and honest in paying fair share of taxes.

4)    The fair taxation: How much tax governments should place on citizens is a debatable topic. Some may not want to pay any tax while other like Alice Trillin wants the government to take as much as possible from the people. A fair tax system is that which provides governments sufficient resources to provide sufficient service to citizens without over spending and taxation that may be the trigger of civil revolts. No one should spend money he doesn’t have it. The same applies to governments. Over spending means over taxation and over taxation is the cause of revolts.

 

THE THINGS OF GOD: (Giving)

1)   The authority of demands: Without any hesitation or hiding any intent, God pronounced His demands on giving or tithing from His people throughout the laws in the Old Testament. God asked for more than tithes, He asked other sacrifices and gifts. God claims all these because He owns everything under the sun including our very existence. The fact that God created everything and every life sets Him on the right place to ask our faithful giving.

2)   The reasons of giving: Not in order of importance or sequence, the most cited reason for giving back to God is on the statement Jesus made: Give to God what is God’s. (Mark 12:17)In all that we may make, own and have, there is a part that belongs to God just as part that belongs to Caesar if not more. As we are to give that part of our possessions to Caesar, we should also give that part that belongs to God. The next mostly cited reason for giving to God is our thanksgiving for what He has given us, His only Son, salvation and many other things that make our life possible. Other may say we give to God because we love God. Love does energize people to give and give generously.

3)   The necessity of giving: God asks that His people should faithfully give to His temple (church) and the poor. These 2 objectives are everywhere in the laws of the Old Testament. Giving tithes and sacrifices to God’s church is the priority of our giving. Giving to the needs of the poor is our secondary purpose of giving. In order to promote the ministries and services God’s church is doing, we should be faithful to give our tithes (not less). We are also told to take care of the poor and the needy among us. We are to share our resources to meet their needs.

4)   The blessings of giving: God did not ask for faithful giving without promise of blessing. The most cited scripture reference is from Malachi 3:10-12 in which He promised abundant blessing in all that we do. When Peter asked what he and other disciples might receive because they have given their all to follow Him, Jesus said, “No one will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this world and in the world to come, eternal life.” (Luke 18:30)Although Our faithful giving to God is not investment for future returns. But God did promise those who are faithful in giving tremendous rewards and blessing beyond our wildest imagination.

 

LESSONS FROM A STORY: (Mark 12:41-44)

1)   God is watching: “Jesus sat down opposite the temple treasury and watched the people putting their money into the treasury.” (12:41) Many Christians seldom think that God is watching how they give to Him through His church but God is watching. When Jesus told us that “wherever your treasure is, there is your heart also,” (Matt. 6:21) He knows that the way we give to Him reflects the way we treat Him in our hearts.

2)   The rich gives much: “Many rich people threw in large amounts.” (12:41)In the parable of faithful servant in Luke 12:41-48, Jesus concluded the parable with this comment: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted much, much more will be asked.” (12:48) When God gives us much, He expects us to give back much.

3)   The poor also gives: Some Christians may argue that they can’t give because they are poor. They say they will begin to give when they have more or enough. God doesn’t give the poor special rights not to give. Can anyone give me a sure definition “how poor is poor” or “how much is enough”? God doesn’t want our “left over.” He deserves our first fruits. Giving God left over is disrespectful to God. In the parable of the unfaithful servant in Luke 16:1-12, He concluded the parable with these words, “Whoever is faithful with very little will also be faithful with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”

4)   God cares the amounts: “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.” (12:43) Many Christians try to make themselves feel good when they give very little to God. They will argue that God cares only our love not the amounts we give but that is not true. God doesn’t ask that all Christians give the same amount because they all have different amount of resources. But He does ask that we give faithfully in proportion to our resources. Even the two small coins didn’t match the large amounts the rich people give, but that’s all that poor woman had---therefore she gave more than all the others according to Jesus. How much you give in proportion to your resources?

5)   Give with love and faith: The reason that Jesus praised the poor widow and her gift of two small coins is because of her whole love for God and her whole trust of God’s provision. She loved God so much that compelled her to give her all. Her giving sets her love to God and faith in God’s supply over and above her material needs of today and tomorrow. Our lack of love to God and over concern of our material needs often times hinder us from giving what we know we should give.

6)   God talks to all of us: “Calling His disciples to him, Jesus said.” (12:43)The teaching of giving is for all followers of Jesus without exception, not even His disciples. No one is exempted from the teaching and duties of following God’s commands in giving. May be the disciples need to be examples of faithful giving so the rest of Jesus’ followers will be faithful as well.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)   God doesn’t ask too much: Many Christians think that God asks too much of them in giving, tithe, 10 percents of their income. Think of how much you pay tax to the US government, at least 10 percents, when the government didn’t do much for you. Think of how much tips you give to the waiter/waitress at a restaurant, 15-20 percents? Why do we comply with the tax law of the land and are so generous to those who bring you food but stingy to the One who gives us all we have today and the days to come.

2)   It’s time to practice: Most of us do not need to learn more what the Bible says about how to live to be effective and be channels of blessing. What we really need is put our knowledge into practice: do what we have learned. We pray that we want to give our time, energy, talents and resource to God. Let us start with our check    book and see how much God will make us effective and blessings.

3)   Give Him the most precious: The most precious of each person is the control of life, our life. Turn the control of your life to God and ask Him to make it effective and blessing to you and others. God has never failed in His promises. Allow Him to do it in your life today.