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R.C. Sproul on the Redistribution of Wealth, Voting and Christianity

“We have an income tax structure today that is inherently unjust. We almost never hear anybody discuss this injustice. But when God set up a system of taxation, He did things differently. God said I’m going to impose a tax on my people and it’s going to be ten percent from everybody: The rich man and the poor man are not going to pay the same amount. The rich man’s going to pay much more than the poor man, but they’re both going to pay the same percentage. They’re both going to have the same responsibility. That way the rich man can’t use his power to exploit the poor man, saying, “I’m going to pay five percent, but you’re going to pay fifty percent.” The rich weren’t allowed to do that. Nor were the poor allowed to say, “We’re going to pay five percent and the rich are going to pay fifty percent because they can afford it.” What that is ladies and gentlemen is the politics of envy that legalizes theft. Anytime you vote a tax on somebody else that is not a tax on yourself, you’re stealing from your brother. And though the whole world does it and though it’s common practice in the United States of America, a Christian shouldn’t be caught dead voting to fill his own pocketbook at the expense of someone else. Isn’t that plain? Isn’t that clear? And until we get some kind of flat tax, we’re going to have a politicized economy, we’re going to have class warfare, and we’re going to have the whole nation’s rule being determined by the rush for economic advantage at the polls. Don’t do it. Even if that means sacrificing some benefit you might receive from the federal government. Don’t ask other people at the point of a gun to give you from their pockets what you don’t have. That’s sin.

It is, of course, the American way. But we Christians should not be involved in that sort of thing. Rather we should be voting for what is right, what is ethical. And our consciences on that score need to be informed by the Word of God, not by our wallets. And so I plead with you: When you enter the voting booth, don’t leave your Christianity in the parking lot. And be bold to speak on these issues, even if it means somebody picks up a rock and throws it in your head. Because it is through tribulation that we enter the Kingdom of God. I pray for you, beloved, and for our nation in these days to come.”

Taken from this excellent article: http://www.ligonier.org/blog/2008/10/pr … -text.html

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4 Comments

  1. Garrett

    R.C. Sproul’s annual income: $199,618

    (Source: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=5173v)

    Food for thought: Would a person with a $200k income who votes in favor of more regressive taxes, i.e. flat taxes, be “voting to fill his own pocketbook at the expense of someone else”? Granted, he would be “filling his own pocketbook” with more of his own money. However, the government must make up for that loss of revenue by either (a) cutting government services to “someone else” or (b) increasing taxes on “someone else” who is poorer. Either way, this rich person will benefit financially.

    I don’t intend to cast aspersions on Mr. Sproul, only to point out a weakness in his argument.

    It is very possible for a rich person to vote unselfishly and benefit, just as it is possible for a poor person to vote unselfishly and benefit. Neither should be pigeonholed as “unethical” or have their vote characterized as “sin” without qualification.

  2. Garrett,

    Thanks for commenting! And I appreciate the humility in your response.

    You make an interesting point. To your question, “Would a person with a $200k income who votes in favor of more regressive taxes, i.e. flat taxes, be ‘voting to fill his own pocketbook at the expense of someone else’?” I would say I guess it depends. Certainly if a person is voting with only the motive to fill their pockets, something many presidents have warned about (voting yourself entitlements, whatever form that takes), then yeah, no matter what your political view, that’s a bad motive. But if your motive is collectively altruistic in looking after the great good of the nation and its financial well-being, then I think that’s a good thing.

    • Garrett

      I agree with you completely. What worries me is that Mr. Sproul argues that “we have an income tax structure today that is inherently unjust”, simply because of the way God instituted the tithe. He also equates support of a progressive tax system with “legalized theft”, regardless of motive.

      I personally think that a progressive tax system is just (within certain limits, of course). I do believe the richest should pay proportionally more because they tend to benefit from government proportionally more and because their high incomes give them a high social standing and a disproportionate influence in government. If I vote in accordance with this belief, Mr. Sproul argues that I’m subscribing to “the politics of envy that legalizes theft.” But my position is not motivated by my own benefit. I fall somewhere between the top third and the top quarter of income earners in the US, and I’m thankful that God has blessed me in that way. I’m glad to contribute slightly more as a percentage of my total income than my poorer neighbor, who must spend a larger percentage of his income on basic needs like food and rent. I also believe such a progressive system is more beneficial for our economy as a whole, because easing the burden on the lower and middle classes allows them greater opportunity for success. Sure, progressive taxation is a form of wealth redistribution, but the United States has been doing it this way for literally 100 years, and most economists agree that it’s beneficial.

      That’s nowhere near a complete defense of my position, and I’m sure there are many valid criticisms of it. But I’m not really here to nitpick economics. My point is that my position isn’t motivated by selfishness, and also that it isn’t even close to an uncommon view among Christians. However, it seems like Mr. Sproul’s article characterizes this position as “inherently unjust”, unethical, in opposition to God, and possibly even sin. I think that point of view is short-sighted, alienating (to me, anyway), and ultimately a misuse of Scripture.

      • The government must MAKE UP FOR THAT LOSS OF REVENUE? Only if you think the government has a just claim to that “lost” income. Considering the abominable things government does, there’s plenty of things that can be cut to compensate for that “loss” of income. Moreover, “loss” implies something owned. The government owns nothing until it TAKES it from the people who actually own it. The government no more owns unjustly collected taxes than does a robber who takes the money by force. The loss, if you insist on using that term, is what the owners of the money – taxpayers – actually lose when government confiscates THEIR money unjustly to use for sinful purposes. There is no biblical warrant for government to raise taxes for things like health, education and welfare. Those all are things it is the responsibility of the church and family to provide. When you hand over those responsibilities to government you not only abdicate your and your church’s responsibilities, but you wrongly give civil magistrates authority over aspects of life never intended for them by God. Government is ordained by God to suppress evil and punish evil-doers. Period. Any other activity is beyond its pay grade and illegitimate. To pay government taxes for its illegitimate uses makes the taxpayer complicit in the government’s sin. Flat taxes are “regressive” taxes, really? It seems God didn’t think so. Do you really presume to know better than Him? You think a progressive tax is just “within certain limits?” And you’ll choose those limits or perhaps leave setting those limits to sinful men seeking their own interest first, which is the definition of sin, rather than to God, who has the golden standard.

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