by Mark Ragsdale
Last year, the federal government of the United States seized and took possession of the Indianapolis Baptist Temple, as a result of a long dispute over taxes. Click
here for a press article about it.
For 16 years, the church has refused to pay payroll taxes on the basis that the church is not subject to the government as far as taxes are concerned. They based this opinion on the Constitution of the United States and that the church property was an embassy of the Kingdom of God.
The question I have had a hard time answering was: Is the churches position right? The Constitution of the United States does state that the government shall make no law restricting the free exercise of religion. This is the 'famous' separation clause that one hears about and is misused constantly.
But, as an 'embassy of the kingdom of God', what does He say about taxes, obedience to government and those in positions of authority?
First, a little background. For years, the Temple has been a 'hotbed' of anti-government dogma. Conferences, organizations and a constant stream of speakers has been started and hosted by the Temple. If you were somewhat credible, and you had something negative to say about the government, especially while Clinton was in office, and if what you had to say had to do with the One World Government, you were welcomed and supported by the Temple.
When the Temple was concerned with preaching the Gospel of Christ, it was one of the most attended churches in Indiana, if not the nation, with a Sunday morning attendance averaging 3,000. Once they started preaching the gospel of politics, membership decreased drastically. People realized that the shift wasn't right, and left in droves.
When Yeshua walked this earth, did He pay taxes? After all, He is the Creator of everything. Let's look at Matthew 17.24-27. When they came to Caperaum, they were confronted by some fellows collecting the temple tax. Peter did not think that this was too hot of an idea. But Yeshua knew what Peter was thinking and asked him if the sons of the king pay taxes. Of course not, they are exempt, Peter replied. So, the Son of the King of the Universe, Yeshua was exempt. But, so He didn't offend these fellows, He provided payment of the tax, not only for Himself, but for Peter also.
In Luke 20.22-25, Yeshua is asked directly if we are to pay taxes. He says 'Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto Jah what is Jah's'. Yes, pay the tax, but your life belongs to Jah. He recognized a distinction between the two, the secular state and duty to Jah. You have responsibilities to both to fulfill.
Yeshua says, pay the tax.
But, aside from the taxes, what about the general principle of obedience and submission to government as Christians? Peter has an answer in 1Peter 2.13-15.
"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."
Why submit? To silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. But more importantly, it is the will of Jah. Now does Peter say, obey only if the government is a Christian one? Has a Christian leader?
No! Peter lived in one of this world's most cruel, perverted governments around. The Roman Empire. Paganism was the official religion of the state and emperor worship was the norm. Tax money went to support the state religion. Active persecution of Christians was on going. But he said submit. Why? Yes, silence the talk of foolish people, but also because it is Jah's will that you do good.
Look at Proverbs 8.15-16 "By Me kings reign and rulers make laws that are just; by Me princes govern, and all nobles who rule on earth." Jah says that governments are set in place by Him and that the laws they pass are by His permission.
Paul also has something to say about obedience to government "Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves." Let's stop right here. Paul says that if you rebel against the government that Jah has established, you will bring judgement upon yourself! Let's keep that in mind as we continue:
"For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience." Let's stop again. Rulers hold no terror for those who do right, only those who do wrong. Why did the Temple lose many members? Anti-government preaching. Actively encouraging disobedience against those in authority. Why were they so fearful? That the big bad government was going to come after them, not only them, but all Christians. What did Paul just say here about terror? Let's continue.
" This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." Romans 13.1-7
Wow. The authorities are Jah's servants. Christians say they are Jah's servants. Hmm. Now does this mean that the authorities are Christians? Not necessarily. Look in the Old Testament how many times Jah uses other rulers and countries to punish the Israelites. These rulers and countries did not worship Jah. Jah sets the governments in places and decides when they leave. He is in control. Remember in Daniel when He wrote those words on the wall of the palace? He was telling the king that his time was up. That very night, the enemy came in and overthrew the king.
What does Paul say after this? Here is the heart of this controversy with the Temple. Pay your taxes. If you owe taxes, pay them. Who decides if you owe taxes? The authorities, who are Jah's servants.
Remember when I said remember what would happen when you rebel against the government you would bring judgement upon yourself? What was the Temple's stances? Anti-government preaching and refusing to pay taxes.
The Temple claimed to be an embassy from the Kingdom of God. Yeshua says that His Kingdom is of the Spirit and not on this earth. "because the kingdom of God is within you." Luke 17.21. Paul says in Ephesians 1.22 that the church is Jah's body, which together with other verses, we know that the church is a living organism, made up of believers world-wide. But even the local church is not a building, but a part of this organism in microcosm. In 3.10 Paul says that Jah's intent through the church is to make the wisdom of Jah known to the angels, both fallen and holy, by manifesting His glory in the salvation and preservation of the church. I can find no where in the scriptures that the church is an embassy, rather that we are ambassadors of Christ.
Now when Christ comes to the earth again, defeats the antichrist, He will establish His physical kingdom. But until then, His kingdom is of the spirit.
Why was the Indianapolis Baptist Temple seized by the government? Did you remember? They brought judgement upon themselves, just as the scriptures says. Jah had enough, the church wasn't fulfilling it's purpose that He designed it for. Look at what Yeshua says He will do to the churches that are not fulfilling their purpose in Revelations. He will spew them out, He will come like a thief, He will repay all sinning church members according to their deeds, He will remove your lampstand from its place. Harsh words for the churches! Straighten up or else! The worse one I see is this last one, He will remove your lampstand from its place. The lampstands here refer to the churches. In John's first vision, Yeshua is seen moving amongst the lampstands, taking care of them. He will remove the lampstand. This is just what He did last year in Indianapolis.