Render Unto Caesar :: By Daniel Payne

Render Unto Caesar

As you by now have heard, the House Republicans unveiled new tax legislation in the first week of November. The new tax bill is designed to “lower” taxes on middle-class Americans. However, now that the details of the bill have been made public, one is left to wonder just how a group of Republicans can release such legislation that actually raises taxes on many in so-called middle-class America.

Homeowners face higher taxes because the new tax bill proposes to cap the deduction at $500,000 for new home purchases, a decrease from $1 million in the current tax law. This has the potential effect of discouraging home buying because the bill reduces the number of homeowners who can take advantage of mortgage interest and property tax deductions. Homebuilder stocks are already taking a hit on the news of the bill.

What may be the biggest tax hike on the middle class is the proposal to eliminate the ability to deduct state and local taxes. Those who live in states like New York, New Jersey, etc., which have high state income and property taxes may no longer be able to deduct what they pay in state taxes from what they owe in federal taxes.

Also, the bill proposes to eliminate deductions for student loans and large medical expenses. This has the potential to affect those at lower income levels as well.

Bottom line: The new tax bill appears to raise taxes at some levels of those working hard to own a decent home, hold down a decent job, and raise a family. Does anyone smell a RINO?

Notwithstanding all of the above, the biggest potential danger lurking in the proposed tax bill may be to the Church in America: The repealing of the Johnson Amendment.

The Johnson Amendment is a 1954 amendment that all but prohibits houses of worship and other tax-exempt 501-c-3 organizations from endorsing or opposing any political candidates. Opponents of this law have long held the belief that it has a chilling effect on the 1st Amendment rights of church leaders and churches as a whole.

The new tax law will allow religious institutions to engage in political activity as long as the speech is in the church’s ordinary course of business and the expenses are minimal.

It is certainly a matter of personal opinion, but one can argue that the Lord Jesus was not only silencing the Pharisees but also issuing guidance to His Church when He gave His famous answer to the question of taxes:

“Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the tax money.”

So they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?”

They said to Him, “Caesar’s.”

And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:17-21).

The answer that Jesus gave shows that believers have dual citizenship. We are responsible to obey and financially support earthly government. We are to pray for those in authority. We are also citizens of heaven and we are responsible to obey God. Of course, if a conflict should ever arise between God and man, our first loyalty is to God:

“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’” (Acts 5:29).

Was the answer that Jesus gave meant to guide His children as individual taxpayers? Yes. Can His answer also be used to guide a collective group of His children? Maybe…

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

People are emotional creatures; what they say cannot always be controlled in group settings like speeches or debates. Churches should be careful not to allow apostate politics behind the pulpit.

Is there any doubt as to the unbridled apostasy that is occurring in America today? To what side of the political aisle do you think most churches would lean today? What about tomorrow?

Speaking of Caesar, the political statements of the current Pope show just how damaging and potentially dangerous it can be when apostate politics bleed into the false church.

May the true Church, however weak she may currently be, stay strong until the return of her King:

“I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name…. Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Revelation 3:8, 10).