God's Laws on Land and Inheritance--Part 4
Apr 25, 2008
I had originally pondered doing a series on God's Laws on Economics, comparing the economic system of the world with that of the Bible. But I soon realized that virtually EVERY law in the Bible has an economic impact in some way. Some laws have direct impact, while others are more indirect.
The laws on land and inheritance are one of the fundamental economic laws, because they root all citizens in the land and provide something like a "safety net" for all. In hard times, each person always has a place to live. God's land laws establish a level of economic equality that is foreign to the current systems of the world.
When America became an independent nation two centuries ago, many unbiblical laws and ideas carried over from the past, most notably the idea that it was a white man's right to have slaves and treat them or mistreat them as he wished. A major anti-slavery passage had to be deleted from the Declaration of Independence in order to maintain solidarity with the southern states. Secondly, while the right to own land was guaranteed, the law was not set up along biblical lines. The poor had the right to own land, but the only way to obtain it was to "Go West" and claim it for themselves. Many settlers were given 40 acres and a mule as an incentive to settle the land in the West. Yet there were no laws against buying and selling one's land, and one might also lose it by not paying taxes on the land.
There was little or no national effort to utilize the biblical taxation system known as the "tithe." The biblical tithe was based upon actual production from the land (creation). There was no "graduated income tax," which is the invention of the Socialists in the 19th century. The graduated income tax is one of the major foundations of Marxism. The only reason it seems "fair" to people today is because it attempts to address some of the other inequities of the world system that have beset us through the violation of other biblical laws.
The law of the tithe is based upon the fact that God is the Creator and Owner of all things (Gen. 1:1). He allows man to use part of His creation in order to make an income and "subdue the earth." Man gets to keep 90 percent of the fruits of his own labor, but God wants a 10 percent return on His labor as well. God has a right to tax mankind for using His material creation. In essence, God wants a "return" on His labor, which we call a "tax return." Leviticus 27:30-32 says,
" (30) Thus all the tithe of the land, of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's; it is holy to the Lord. . . (32) And for every tenth part of the herd or flock; whatever passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to the Lord."
The tithe is a tax on all production where men use God's labor directly. Other contributions that man may give to God are offerings and are voluntary. Fishermen were to give 10 percent of the fish they caught to God. Lumbermen were to give 10 percent of the trees (or lumber) to God. Farmers were to give 10 percent of their harvest. Ranchers were to give 10 percent of the increase of the flocks and herds. If anyone wanted to keep (redeem) their tithe, they had the option of paying cash plus 20% of its value (Lev. 27:31).
Today we would include income from things like hydroelectric power, solar power, wind power, nuclear power. All of these utilize God's creation, and so He wants a return on His labor for the support of His government on earth.
Man's government, of course, is far more expensive to run than God's government. And so man has devised all kinds of new ways to tax the people. Most of the taxes are "hidden" in the price of goods and services. Man does not mind taxing the same thing more than once, knowing full well that this merely raises prices that the consumer must ultimately pay. This form of tax is called a "value added tax."
For example, a lumberman or company harvests trees and exchange their labor for money. He is taxed on that profit. Carpenters cut and shape the lumber to make furniture and sell their labor for a profit. They are taxed on that profit. The wholesalers provide a service and make a profit, and they are taxed as well. The retailers provide a service, and they too are taxed. By the time the table gets to the consumer, he must pay all those taxes, because at each step of the way, the worker must raise his price in order to pay the taxes.
A just tax is a return for services rendered. To demand a tax on the labor of the worker is a violation of the Sixth Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal." God is not a thief. In a biblical system, the tax is at the ground level only, because that is the level in which men are directly utilizing God's services (i.e., creation). Everything after that is purely man's labor, and it is non-taxable income.
So if I get a job at Wal-Mart, God does not require a tithe from my paycheck, because my wages do not directly utilize God's creation. If I work as a furniture salesman, the wood has already been taxed at the ground level and has been factored into the price of the furniture. The lumber company who paid the tax cannot claim discrimination against him, because his payment of the tax merely raised the price of the wood by 10 percent, ultimately paid by the consumer.
Most ministries do not really comprehend the idea of the tithe. Whole denominations have rejected the divine law, except that they retain the law of the tithe. Somehow, that seems a bit hypocritical. Worse yet, their desire to raise more revenue has caused many of them to demand tithes on all labor (i.e., all paychecks), which is something that goes far beyond God's requirement. Some of the more legalistic denominations and churches will actually threaten their members with excommunication and even with a burning hell if they do not give 10 percent of the Wal-Mart paycheck to the church. This is nothing less than spiritual extortion and fraud, which they learned from the world.
The biblical tax system does not tax the land itself, but rather its actual production. In the world's system today, land is taxed whether it produces something or not. Retail store property is taxed whether it makes money or not. This discourages farmers to keep Sabbath land-rest years, and it discourages retails stores from closing on the Sabbath day. Each biblical law that is violated leads to the violation of another law, and then another in a chain reaction.
Most taxpayers in America resent the taxes that the IRS requires them to pay. Most are aware of the inequities of the system, and they look for ways to reduce their tax liability. The IRS finds it necessary, then, to threaten people with prison and heavy fines to enforce compliance. The biblical tax system, on the other hand, carries no direct penalties, other than the fact that God reserves the right to disinherit the nation as a whole for an overall rejection of Him and His law.
The biblical assumption is that people will not only pay the tithe, but also will WANT to pay more in the form of voluntary offerings! Whereas men fear the IRS and resent it, the divine law tends to produce grateful people who want to give more than is required.
The tithe was for maintaining local government, and 10 percent of the tithe was sent to the temple (national government). See Numbers 18:26. A simple law like this had enormous political consequences. Money is power, and so power remained proportionately with local, rather than with national government. It is the deciding factor of political theory between a free people and a free (sovereign) nation.
Which do we want?
This is the fourth part of a series titled "God's Laws on Land and Inheritance." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones