Posted in Bible Study, Theology, & Christian Living, Religion & Politics, Uncategorized

Taxes, Budgets, & Free Markets: The Bible Speaks

When it comes to fairness and ethics in the 21st century, people have different ideas about what is right and moral.  This disagreement–or difference in the application of morality–is the foundation, I believe, for engaging in the serious discussion of fiscal policy and the divide between government and Middle America.  In our post-modern world, where selfishness reigns supreme, there is seemingly scant interest in what is fair for you; what is fair for me is the primary motivation. Oftentimes me is government. Or me is those who depend on government for their income. Any hardship that falls on you after they are satisfied is your problem. I firmly believe any fruitful conversation about these issues needs to embrace a biblical framework.

In speaking to economics issues, I want to specifically address taxes, budgets, and free markets.  All get considerable treatment in the scriptures. Jesus spoke on monetary issues more often than he did heaven and hell.  Thus, I think we can see the importance of fiscal responsibility within a Judeo-Christian—or biblical—worldview.  We might be surprised to see that the Bible has much to say about taxes, budgeting, and free markets (financial freedom)–and these lessons are applicable to our political discussions.

Taxes

Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government power to levy and collect taxes.  Our government most certainly—legally speaking—was empowered to do so by those representatives elected by the people and individual states who ratified the Constitution.  Is there an obligation to pay?

When Jesus was asked if it was lawful to support a secular government via paying taxes, Jesus said it was: “And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. And they marvelled at him” (Mark 12:17, KJV).  The concept was repeated by Paul the Apostle in Romans 13:7a, “Render therefore to all their dues; tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom is due…(KJV).”  Yes. We are obligated to pay taxes.

However, the power of compulsory taxation is not a power to be abused simply because we are obligated. The question government must ask concerning taxes should be “We have the power to institute a tax for fill-in-the-blank purpose, but should we?”  Sound moral ethics must define the “should” portion of the question. Conflicts in ideology muddy the issue. Nearly all agree that taxes should be applied to national defense, infrastructure we all use, and common interests like community safety.

But what about other things? Should taxes be used to cover the fiscal mistakes of the irresponsible (Wall Street bailouts, Congressional overspending, etc.)?  Should taxes be used to support those unwilling to work?  Again, individual ethics will distinguish between ‘unable’ and ‘unwilling.’  Should taxes be used to fund issues which violate the moral conscience of a taxpayer, i.e. abortion, building casinos, or stem cell research?

Budgets

Budget is both a noun and a verb.  I think that’s an important concept to grasp.  Budget, the noun, is defined as “an itemized summary of probable expenditures for a given period” (American Heritage Dictionary).  Budget, the verb, is defined as “to plan in advance for the expenditure” (American Heritage). The Bible has much to say about this—but I am sure no politician wants to read it.

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish” (Luke 14:28-30, KJV).

“Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds. For riches are not for ever…” (Proverbs 27:23-24a, KJV).

These verses teach us that responsible budgeting means ensuring the money is there before you financially commit to a project.  The Bible looks down upon trusting in money you do not have (see also I Tim. 6:17).  Since Congress has the “power of the purse,” it also has the responsibility to budget accordingly.

Poor budgeting leads to debt (Proverbs 22:7) while good budgeting leads to surplus (Proverbs 13:11).  Sustained economic growth is the by-product of responsible budgeting.  If confiscatory compulsory taxation is the government’s answer to irresponsible budgeting, citizens seemingly have a right to charge the government with theft, do they not?

Free Markets

The Bible encourages ownership of property and goods.  Job owned property (Job 1:3), Abraham and Lot owned property (Gen. 13:1-11), and Jacob owned property (Gen. 31:18), along with many others.  So, the Bible does not condemn private ownership of land.  Thus, it can be implied that if I, as a private owner of property, wish to sell what I have to another, I may do so.  In fact, the Bible indicates this as well:

Leviticus—an Old Testament legal ethics book—reads “And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another” (25:15, KJV). There is no mention here of a government intermediary brokering the deal, or taking a piece of the “action.” There is only the divine reminder that God has an interest in us dealing with each other fairly. Let’s look further.

Deuteronomy—another Old Testament legal ethics book—reminds the Jews, “Meddle not with them; for I will not give you of their land, no, not so much as a foot breadth; because I have given mount Seir unto Esau for a possession. Ye shall buy meat of them for money, that ye may eat; and ye shall also buy water of them for money, that ye may drink.”

There are a couple of solid principles here: 1) God recognizes the private ownership of land and  property and 2) expects the Jews to not only purchase from one another, but to do so honestly.  In other words, you do not overcharge a patron for something based on the urgency or importance of the item.  You do not charge a starving man twice as much for food because he is desperate; there is an expectation of responsible ownership and charity.  It peeves me that government places such high tax on gasoline because they know the citizens will pay it, or the taxation of food.  Government has no business making itself a 3rd person in what should be a two-person transaction.  Government did not produce the food and will not consume the food.  Thus, what is government’s interest in that free market exchange of goods between consenting parties?

Government Interest

Let us be cautious about believing what we are told, especially those things that are meant to play on our emotions.  Look at the following example:

“Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein” (John 12:6-7).

The ointment was Mary’s to give and the Lord’s to receive.  Judas, feigning concern for the greater good, demands to know why he was not given the ointment to sell and distribute as he saw fit.  His concern was not noble, it was theft.  That is a valuable example to follow when we listen to our elected officials.  Begin to ask yourselves if government’s interest in your earnings is more about what is “in their bag,” and how they can redistribute it to solidify their power,then it is about concern for their constituents. It will change the way you view government, I promise you.

(C) 2018. All rights reserved

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Posted in All Things American, Religion & Politics

A Time for Prayer for America

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We are at a crossroad in America. It’s time we acknowledged it. Our battle is more than political…it is also spiritual. Until we recognize that, and stop depending solely on temporal wisdom, nothing will change. It’s time we prayed, as our Founders did, for direction and strength.

“Gracious and Merciful Father, No nation on earth has enjoyed the prosperity that the United States of America has. Our blessings point to the work of Your providential hand. Our great spiritual blessings unfolded by Your remarkable design. So also our Constitution and the freedom it provides with guidance given to our Founding Fathers. Lord, you have showered on us over 200 years of blessings. As we have tried to do right, in spite of our sins, You have blessed us.

As we acknowledged and honored You , You elevated us from infancy to a place of world leadership. You have allowed America to enjoy unprecedented wealth and influence among nations. You have allowed America to lead the world in medical and technological development. Our military might has guaranteed our children safety, with the threat of foreign invasion a strange concept. It has protected the weak and vulnerable around the world.

With grateful and humble hearts, Lord, we once honored you as the Author and Guarantor of our freedoms. But we turned on You, Lord, and started thanking ourselves for the blessings You have given us. We were silent as Americans thanked themselves, their government…everyone except You.

We said nothing while You were pushed out of society and confined to our churches. We stood idly by while they took the Bibles out of our schools and told our children they could not pray. We elected men who told us, “We don’t need God anymore.” We abandoned our responsibility to influence our government with the principles of Your revelation, run for its offices, and become involved in its processes.

We once looked to Your pulpits, and the Godly wisdom we heard from them, for guidance. But today we no longer speak out because our government has intimidated us into silence. We have allowed our voice to be stricken from the elective process and we have voted for enemies of God. Forgive us, Lord, for our neglect. Forgive us, Lord, for forgetting you. Forgive us, Lord, for being afraid to speak in Your name.

Raise us up leaders, Lord, who will stand in the gap. Give us, Lord, God-fearing leadership that is not afraid to seek Your face and speak Your truth. Remind us that it is we, not our politicians, who are called to be salt and light of the earth. Remind us, Lord, that if we sow the godless, we will reap godlessness.

Give us the strength to face the adversity. Give us the strength to do what is right in the face of persecution and criticism. Give us the will to share Your wisdom with our nation. Inspire us to humbly pray for the restoration of this land so we might establish Your righteousness peacefully among men and nations.”
In Jesus’ Name…Amen

Posted in Religion & Politics, Uncategorized

Serious Questions About Immigration

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I love the Statue of Liberty and what she represents. I love that she is a beacon of hope. I love that she beckons to all who wish to live in freedom. I understand the motivation of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” I also love what America stands for and thank God–I am sure not enough– for the blessing of being born in a country that provided me the life I have been blessed to live. I am downright sentimental about it.

The immigration discussion that has been taking place the last 15-20 years is growing ever more contentious.  Though it may be a national discussion, it is also one of those rare instances where citizens get to see first-hand how inept federal policies affect their local communities. After all, immigrants–whether they are legal, illegal, asylum seeker, or refugee–end up in someone’s community.

Who, exactly, is coming to our communities and do we have a need to be concerned? Do we have the right to ask questions? Do we have the right to assurances that immigrants, especially those from countries hostile to American ideals, are not a threat to our communities?

I believe, emphatically, that we do have the right to ask these questions and be given assurances that they are not a threat. This is not about being anti-immigrant. This is about common sense government. It’s about asking if our government is allowing more immigrants than it can safely process and pay for. It’s about asking if our government is ensuring the integrity of our immigration laws.

What has been the impact of an immigration policy that seemingly has no restrictions? Or a secure and reliable vetting process? Or mechanism to hold those breaking our immigration laws accountable? Over-burdening of local resources (schools and social services primarily), increased risk of communicable illnesses, increased criminal activity (drug smuggling and human trafficking) and, yes, entry of persons hostile to the American way of life–whether they be jihadists or violent gang members.  I don’t like having to say these things. Neither do government officials advocating for a much stricter immigration policy. But it’s a reality.

The argument has been made, of course, that these are the rare exceptions, with the likelihood of these particular scenarios impacting you, John Q. Public, being slim. Many of the immigrants here do not fall into those categories. They have come to America through lawful channels, assimilated well into our communities, work, raise families, and are grateful for the hope America has given them. It’s not fair for them to bear the burden of a lengthy vetting process.

Maybe so. Still, when the stakes are so high—and increased risks to your family’s health and security is the result—people want to err on the side of caution. No risk—not 1%, not 20%–is worth it. And they don’t want their government gambling on their behalf, when their health and security is the ante.

What is the common-sense thing for our government to do, given the concerns expressed by citizens? Get a firm control on the pace of the immigrants we are allowing into the country. Vet them properly and extensively, to ensure public health and security. Make sure it is safe and healthy to bring them into our communities. Ensure reliable barriers are in place to remove avenues used by criminal to evade our laws, like the “Border Wall.”

Inaction is not a plan, or a policy. Assuming the best is not the right approach. The public does not want to hear, “Well, the odds are that nothing “fill-in-the-blank” will come of it, so it’s safe. We’ll sort it all out after they get here.” That’s not good enough. The public wants to know BEFORE immigrants are allowed into the country that they are not a health or security risk. Further, the public WANTS known criminals and threats to our community removed. Presently, there is no public confidence in the federal vetting system. There is no explanation for why politicians are not acting to change it, or impeding those who are.

What has been the federal government’s response to the public demanding a stronger, more accountable, and more reliable vetting process? Demand the citizens accept the status quo and foot the bill. Accuse them of xenophobia or racism if they don’t. Threaten states with loss of federal funding if they don’t comply with the status quo.

Those states which capitulate? Well, they then demand their local communities take on the burden, threatening them with the loss of state funds if they don’t comply. After all, federal dollars are involved, right? They’ll assert whatever other scary scenario is applicable at the time to ensure they do. A subtle form of coercion, but coercion nonetheless. No government of free citizens should force policy by coercion. It’s downright un-American.

However, since they do, that means you, the citizen and taxpayer, has LESS to tend to your family priorities—which are important to you—because the federal government feels better putting THEIR priorities ahead of yours, while spending YOUR money to do it. THEIR priorities, however misguided, ineptly pursued, or against the will of the public, come at YOUR expense. Both your dollars AND your peace of mind.

Is it fair, then, to ask the question, even in the “Land of the Free,” if America is taking in more people than the hope that exists in its promise to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” can provide, or puts that promise at risk? Is it fair to ask if those “huddled masses” are truly yearning to breathe free? Is it fair to ask if those coming to America truly have her best interest at heart?

Most Americans believe yes. Our government needs to listen…and ensure that America’s security is their first priority. The immigration discussion has become a pawn in the war of competing political ideologies…at the expense of domestic tranquility. That needs to stop. Now.

Posted in Religion & Politics, Uncategorized

Trump Remorse? Not a Chance!

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Perfect? No. Flawed? Like all of us. But my vote was an investment in a better & stronger America. In short, I voted for an ideal, not a man. Donald Trump had me at the escalator ride. I loved his confidence, his dogged determination, and his willingness to leave his lofty perch of wealth and fame to become the “whipper-boy” of the American Left and the oligarchs of both political parties in D.C., because he KNEW he could do it better…AND dared to say so. I still do. No one, in my mind, was better suited to take a wrecking-ball to our corrupt government system than a man who built his wealth and found his fame tearing down rot and rebuilding glory in its place. And, let’s face it, D.C. has plenty of rot.

I’m a Reagan conservative…so my support of Trump came somewhat of a surprise to me. I didn’t really see Trump as a conservative but I liked his willingness to speak his mind, speak plainly, and call-out the career politicians who claim they have the “fix” for what ails America, when it is them who created the problem. For sure the Trump Presidency has been particularly aggravating to the national GOP party apparatchik–the Mitch McConnell’s, Paul Ryan’s, and John McCain’s–who many believe, myself included, really needed to be kicked in the seat of the pants. Rank and file GOPers had had enough of their double-speak, myself included. Time for some straight talk and action.

The Democratic Party, the American Left, the GOP establishment and their friends in the American media have met their match in Trump because he has the “cajones” to stand up to them, call them what they are, and can withstand the onslaught of negative attacks from all directions on his family, his character, his accomplishments, and his vision…with a smirk that says “Is that all you’ve got?”

Trump’s plain speak is precisely what is necessary to solve America’s problems…and exactly why his supporters are still with him. The forked-tongue of political correctness has only shielded do-nothing politicians from accountability. For years our politicians “kicked the can” down the road—making things worse–by applying themselves to “politics” instead of the people’s business, and gave a thousand bogus excuses as to why they had could not get something done.

President Trump has confronted the problems they’ve avoided with direct action, using language that is not “sensitive,” according to the social justice warriors and political snowflakes.  He is not intimidated or moved by any of the criticism—as illustrated by his pressers and appearances—and I applaud it…loudly.

There are still those Trump detractors who believe President Trump is only about Trump. He doesn’t give a whit about the country, they say. America is simply his new choice of playground, they fret. They apply this to him almost daily: Trump only talks about himself, he calls people names, he just wants to be the center of attention, etc. His daily appearances on Twitter serve as reinforcement to them that Trump is some ego-maniac demagogue run amok in the Oval Office.

President Trump’s supporters know this is an unfair characterization of him. There is much more to Trump than the Left, Washington politicians, and the media understand. He has twisted them in knots and they are quite enjoying the show. They like that he is  thumbing his nose at the “political establishment” that has ignored us for too long. They love that he has taken over the narrative from the national media, communicating directly with Americans, via social media. Who would’ve thought the media would go nuts over something as simple as a “tweet?”

Trump is squarely confronting issues Americans care about and take interest in with a brutal honesty many share. The media may find them trivial, but we don’t: LaVar Bell (“ungrateful”), Elizabeth Warren (“Pocahontas”), CNN (“Fake News”), Kim Jong Un (“short and fat”), Hillary Clinton (“sore loser”), Senator Flake (“Sen. Flake(y)), the NFL (“weak and out of control”) to name just a few.  I like it. He gets it. It’s refreshing. My father was blunt, too. Greatest man I ever knew. Sentimentality and feelings weren’t his strong suit, either.

Trump’s supporters agree with his vision and grand plans for America. They agree with how he is going about it. They like him, they believe in him, and they are not buying that he does not care about America. They believe Trump truly does want to make America great again and they want in. If Trump is driving that bus, they are happy to ride along. They like that he is squarely confronting serious questions–political or social–with direct answers, while thumbing his nose at the politically correct oligarchy—Republican or Democrat—that has created the national situation we find ourselves in–politically and socially.

I’m happy with who I voted for. I’d vote for him again, a hundred times over. God certainly may have a lot of work to do, but my vote was a vote for ideas, expressed by a man who said he would fulfill them. Trump is just clearing the site of the old rot to make preparations to build anew. I’m patient.  My vote will pay back the dividends I expect. No way I’m selling this stock, or giving up on Trump.

Posted in Religion & Politics, Uncategorized

America Should Agree with President Trump on Immigration

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America is what President Ronald Reagan called the “shining city on the hill.” The Statue of Liberty welcomes immigrants to the “golden door.” I get it. President Trump gets it. Most Americans gets it. My grandfather was an immigrant. President Trump had family who were immigrants. Immigrants have thrived in America. But there is an expectation in America’s offering to the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Let’s first understand a few things. America is not a candy store. It’s not a far-off fantasy land where money grows on trees and things are free. It’s not a place where you can sit on your duffs, not work, and go out to the mail once a month and collect the check that buys free stuff. There are some who would like us to believe that’s what America is. It isn’t. It’s what some want to make it…but that’s not what America is.

Immigrants should know that when they come to America, the rest of America is ready to welcome them, subject to meeting certain expectations. Here is what I, and I think most Americans, expect:

  • We expect immigrants who come to America to become Americans. If you are coming from a country where the quality of life caused you to flee, then leave that country behind you. Embrace the things about America that brought you here.
  • We I expect immigrants to honor the American flag and mourn for those who died to defend it. America is great because those men and women believed her values were worth dying for and wanted to preserve them for their loved ones. You have a place to escape to because that road is paved with their sacrifice. Respect it. Recognize it. Honor it. Don’t try to change the values they died for.
  • We expect immigrants to learn the language–English. Unwillingness to do so means you don’t wish to communicate with Americans or become part of our nation or our communities. You’re the guest who wants to make their own rules.
  • We expect immigrants to respect the U.S. Constitution. The bedrock principles found in that document are the foundation of everything that made you want to come to America in the first place. I don’t expect you to come from a country where you feared for your safety and then come to America and try to make it like the country you fled from. The U.S. Constitution IS the supreme law of the land. Don’t try to subordinate it to something else.
  • We expect immigrants to earn their own way. America is not a free ride and every dollar of support that comes from the federal government to support you comes from the pocket of someone else, someone with a family that has needs, too. Coming to America because you think you can sit back with your hand out is tantamount to theft. It’s not our responsibility to provide for your family. It’s yours.
  • We expect immigrants to respect the rights of other Americans–their right to honor the flag, worship as they choose, eat what they wish, love who they wish–without you being offended.
  • We expect immigrants to do no harm. Don’t come to America to create strife, wage war, sell drugs, or commit crimes against the people who live here.
  • Finally, we expect immigrants to come to America legally, like they did for decades, not sneak in the back door and force Americans to support you. Come in the front door, be willing to offer everything you have, and work–like all of the immigrants before you.

President Trump’s hard-line stance is to ensure American values are preserved. America is very pro-immigrant. The invitation to the “huddled masses” has always been open. But there are certain expectations. It is not a lawless free-for-all. These expectations are not unfair. They are not unreasonable. They are not anti-immigrant. Meet them and you will be welcome here. If not, I greet with suspicion why you wanted to come in the first place. The rest of America will, too.