How much should the rich be taxed?


taxes (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

How much should the rich be taxed in America?

Okay, I don’t really care what you think about that.  I am concerned with how you think about such things, though.  The way we consider political viewpoints tends to influence how we deal with conflicts in the Christian community. The Apostle Paul wanted his friends to focus on how they thought about divisive issues in his letter to Philemon.

Paul begins the letter differently than he does any other (Philemon 1-7). In his other letters in the New Testament he usually refers to himself as an Apostle of Jesus Christ.  Here he’s a “prisoner”.  He was a master at knowing and effectively communicating with his audience.  From the start he’s doing his best to identify with Onesimus.  He’ll be identifying with Philemon as well.

As I mentioned in my last post, slavery in first century Rome looked much different than in American history.  Slaves were generally treated well and had rights.  But, runaway slaves were treated poorly. By running away from their masters they lost their rights as far as the Roman government was concerned.

Who knows why Onesimus left?  If it was because of harsh treatment, Paul would certainly have pointed that out to Philemon (Ephesians 6:5-9).  So here’s a perspective that you and I don’t have: he’s a good man who took care of slaves and whose reputation had been tarnished.  Whatever good faith he had given Onesimus had been thrown back in his face.  Onesimus is doing a brave thing by coming back and admitting his fault (which Paul, not doubt, had pointed out to him).  Now Paul is making a big ask of Philemon: to go against the grain of tradition and propriety, to plunge into humility for the sake of Jesus Christ and the unity of his Body.

Check out verse 6.  This “partnership” is a concept that runs throughout Paul’s writing.  It’s the Greek word kononia, and it has to do with Christians sharing their spiritual journeys together.  There may be many things we don’t have in common, but our common faith in Jesus Christ needs to trump every other difference. For that to happen, we must do our best in considering the situation of everyone else in the church (1st Corinthians 12:26).

Paul writes with confidence, knowing that Philemon will do the right thing.  If he’s correct, imagine what that church would have looked like.  Think of the newly found joy and freedom they must have tasted because Philemon and Onesimus had the courage to consider the plight of their partners.

Maybe it’s time for our church today to do the same.

I’d love for you to comment.  (But really, I’d rather not hear about your view on taxes!  I’m sure we’ve all heard it before.)


4 thoughts on “How much should the rich be taxed?

  1. Dave you may not wish to hear views on Taxes, but you undoubtedly will, so let me be the first. In both the USA and the UK our societies are based on Judea Christian philosophy and that colours, or should, the way we think, but the question of Taxes is contentious, even Christ recognised that when he made his comment about giving to Caesar etc..
    Did you know, and you probably did since you are more versed, pardon the pun, in these matters than I that there at least 36 passages in both Old and New Testaments relating to how we deal with the poor and disadvantaged and our responsibility toward them ie entitlements paid for by taxation. We are left in no doubt, especially in 1 John Ch 3 V’s 17 & 18 “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need and has no pity on him how can the love of God be in him. Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth”. Now clearly this was written in pre-entitlement days when the welfare of the poor devolved on the individual not Government.
    However, also in the Bible Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians Ch 3 V 10, “If a man will not work he shall not eat”. Whilst we should recognise that there are those for whom work is a physical impossibility there are also, and probably far too many who WILL not work because they know that the Government will give them entitlements.
    This is a shared responsibility. Those of us who are able should willing pay our taxes and support those less fortunate, but those who are able should contribute to society by honest endeavour however lowly. There are far too many on both sides who do not wish to and do all they can to avoid doing so. Of course that doesn’t address your point about how much we should pay but in a Christian Society we all have a responsibility toward each other, both the haves and have nots.

    • Okay, you talked about taxes, but you didn’t argue about how much the rich should pay so you got past my filter (being my father-in-law has something to do with it as well). And, (sorry about this) I’m pleasantly surprised at your take on this. You’ve considered not only the view from many perspectives, but you’ve included a biblical perspective as well. That’s my point in this blog.

      Whether or not we agree on the answer to tough questions like this, the best way to go about it is to consider – and partner – with fellow Christians to keep unity and peace. Like I often say, it’s okay for Christians to disagree on some things. Things would be a lot easier if we could. The taxes thing is a secular issue, but I have a hunch that if we get our approach right in Christian circles it can only overflow into all our relationships.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Interesting perspective, thank you for sharing! It had me go back and look at 1 Corinthians Chapter 12:26…

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