Of Taxes and Tithes

By Kersley Fitzgerald

Tax season is upon us once again, and once again the subject Of Taxes and Tithes will rear its head. There are two different ways to take deductions out of your income in order to pay fewer taxes. The first is to take the standard deduction. That's a flat rate depending on how many people are in your house, age, marital status, and if you're blind. The other option is to itemize legitimate deductions and add them up. This is especially useful if you have a hefty mortgage or a lot of medical expenses that weren't covered by insurance.

If you itemize, you can also deduct donations to charitable organizations, including your church and certain Christian ministries. The question that stumps many believers is — should they? If you donate $1000 to your church over the course of a year and claim that donation on your taxes, a portion of that donation will come back to you in the form of refunded or lower taxes. Does that diminish your donation? Make it less of a financial sacrifice? And does it go against Jesus' admonishment in Matthew 6:1-4 since now your tax-preparer and the IRS know how much your right hand gave?

First off, Matthew 6:1-4 is about a person who publicizes their giving for the purpose of getting attention. "Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward" (Matthew 6:2). If you give to your church and flaunt it in front of the congregation, you're in the wrong. If you slide an annual giving statement to your tax preparer, that's fine.

Second of all, God is not an accountant. If you tithe 10 percent and manage to get 10 percent of that back, He's not going to sharpen His pencil and correct the numbers on His big accounting ledger in the sky. Remember that Christians are not required to tithe. Tithing was an Old Testament law that supported Israel's religious organization and its government. Christians need to give to support their churches, but there is no set amount. We are to give as we are able and as we are lead (James 1:5).

What if you pledged/vowed to give a certain percentage of your income, and now part of that pledge has been returned to you? First of all, read our article on taking vows. Then, if it is that important to you, give what the government returned to you back to the church. That way the amount is precise.

If you don't want a refund on your donation, why not just skip itemizing your donations to Kingdom work? Think about why you tithed. Maybe you felt called to obedience. Maybe you wanted to support the spread of the Gospel. Or you wanted to show your faith in God's provision. Or receive the blessings that naturally come when we give to God.

When a government returns some of a giver's tithes, it's a sneaky way of causing the government to tithe. Ninety percent of the donation to the church may be from you, but 10 percent from the government. You've just directed the government to support God's work — to serve God. The New Testament and the Church Age leave governments pretty free to govern as they see fit. But if that government knowingly or unknowingly enacts policies that align with biblical teaching, they will be blessed.

Does the Bible support or condemn claiming tithes on taxes to receive a refund? Neither — it doesn't say. Romans 14:5 is about celebrating holidays, but the principle still applies to most things the Bible doesn't directly address: "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind." What I say is that any time we can influence the government to serve God and then receive His blessings, we should.

Image Credit: Pictures of Money; "Taxes"; Creative Commons

TagsChristian-Life  | Controversial-Issues  | Current-Issues  | Political-Issues

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Published 2-20-17