Friday, January 4, 2008

Fear not those who can kill the body -- or tax it, either!

Today's "No Apologies" website includes one of the MULTITUDINOUS reasons why I'm leery of Christians' getting uptight about politics: we tend to get so fixated on the machinations of the enemy and the ways of the world that we forget what we're supposed to be doing and that we have a very powerful Partner helping us.

Al Siebring's column raises the spectre of a civic government re-defining what a "place of worship" is, for the purposes of levying property taxes. The idea, contained in a draft report floating around City Hall in Brampton, ON, is that the city would go around calculating how much space is actually being used for worship -- preaching, prayer, etc. -- and then tax the rest of the property. The draft report also discusses limiting the "frequency" of places of worship to one per 10,000 people -- not shutting them down, but, Al's article suggests, not approving any new applications so the ratio is reached through attrition. The draft report also talks about limiting home groups to no more than 20 -- children included -- although Al's article doesn't spell out what the "or else" might be.

You can read the entire article here:

My comments? First off, Brampton's town elders should be glad the notion of tax-exempt status for places of worship isn't taken to its logical extension by worshippers. For many Christians, EVERYPLACE is a place of worship! Can you imagine if we started claiming exemptions for our bus seats, sidewalks, "quiet time" in our offices, or favorite seats at Starbucks?

But there's a red herring that Satan is dragging over the path -- another of what I call the "alligators" that distract us from draining the swamp.

When you get right down to it, all that the city of Brampton can really do, is force churches to pay property taxes. If there is a sinister motive behind this to prevent the masses from taking large doses of the Karl Marx Opiate (and that hasn't been established, only hinted-at, darkly, in the commentary), those behind it will be in for a big surprise -- like the Grinch thinking he could shut down Christmas by stealing all the presents and decorations. Anyone thinking that a re-worked taxation system will stop me from preaching the Gospel is sorely mistaken. You want to tax me and my church? Bring it on! My God will supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory! Remember that the Pharisees tried to hit Jesus up for tax money, and Jesus brassed-up right away -- with enough to cover Peter's taxes, too. And remember where the money came from: the mouth of a fish.

This actually relates to the Shower Saga (read the previous posts on that below and in the 2007 archive), one of the things we have to do in installing the showers is navigate the City of Vancouver's regulations. Watching Barry and our two plumbers (count 'em: the Lord has provided us with TWO plumbers who were saved off the streets and who are now giving of their time and expertise for this project!), they're approaching the regulatory process as a series of must-do activities, not something to be seen as either roadblocks or something that we can avoid if we just don't mention it to the city. It's going to cost us about $175.00 for the permit -- and the Lord has already provided it, praise Him, so that's not a worry. And if the city decided we'd have to pay $1000, the Lord would see it got there, too. So if the Lord is building the house, He'll make sure city regulations are adhered-to, as well.

But to get back to Brampton, something I've learned over the past couple of years is that, when faced with an apparent setback, we need to ask God, "Where are You?" Al started to hit on something when he suggested the money from taxing the kitchen areas and feeding program spaces would go towards government-run feeding programs -- a concept he sneers at, and, in fact, so do I. But if the taxes have the effect of shutting down feeding programs, then the government wouldn't get that money anyway.

But we could take Al's point a step further. What if the city is trying to find new sources of revenue for other needs? What if it were to make the difference, that heads off a transit fare increase that might have prevented some lower-income people from getting to church.

And what if God is letting this happen to see how much we're willing to trust in Him to provide?

So let's not allow fear of what a city government "might" do, to distract us from whatever job the Lord has given us. If the Lord has purposed it, who shall disannul it? If we have the Lord's work to do and He's building the house, He'll provide the money for taxes, just as He provides for everything else we need. And if He doesn't provide, maybe we have to re-think what we're doing in His Name.


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  2. (From Al Siebring - posted on his behalf)
    The financials of this are what they are. And I certainly wouldn't disagree with you with respect to the fundamental notion of the sovereignty of God in all of this. You know me well enough for that.

    However, we have a responsibility, as Christians, to spread the gospel. And civil government has a responsibility to not stand in the way of that - in fact, to create an atmosphere where individual Christians, the church, and the Gospel can thrive. That's why were are instructed to "pray for kings and those in authority". It is so that may we may "live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." And why would we do this? Well, "this is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (I Tim 2:1-3)

    So we should pray for the king so that we can live devoutly so that others may come to know Christ through our witness.

    There's a logical progression here. Which starts with the idea that we "pray for the king" so that he will help facilitate an atmosphere where we can live devoutly and witness to the gospel. (And remember, Paul wasn't writing this in any vacuum. This is from I Timothy, a letter written while he was imprisoned by a king who expressly was not creating an atmosphere of peaceful, quiet living in godliness and holiness.)

    The point is this. When civil gov't moves to restrict the spread of the gospel (as is obviously the case with the restrictions that are being considered in Brampton), we have an obligation, as Christian citizens, to object to that, and to make our objections known. That's what "Christian citizenship" is all about.

  3. re Al's comment, above:
    I don't know if civil government does have that responsibility -- to not stand in the way of the spreading of the Gospel; at least, not any more than standing by our right to free speech. As you point out, Paul was in prison when he urged Timothy to pray for those in authority -- and indeed, that's what we need to do here.

    But we don't walk in fear of those in authority, either. We press forward, doing what Jesus called us to do, and trust in God to take care of us. Besides, let's not forget that there are Christians in other parts of the world who face repression that makes a draft report proposing tweaking of the Brampton, Ontario, tax code look like a blessing.