Est. May 2008

02 October, 2012

The Church Tax

Did you know that over in Europe, some nations extract a tax (up to 9% of income) to support their churches?

I didn't until I read the article.  And I don’t know as I would have heard of it had there not been some kind of dispute over that taxation; in fact, the dispute is so bad, the Roman Catholic Church in the affected countries is functionally excommunicating those folks who refuse to pay the tax (the Protestant churches aren’t any better, cutting off church weddings, god-parenting, and employment at any church-affiliated business)

This seems a rather harsh step for the churches to be taking ... that is, until you find out that the Roman Catholic Church in Germany is raking in over six billion (that’s with a ‘b’, folks) bucks a year from the tax, and that the Protestant churches get over five billion (again with the ‘b’).  That’s some serious geld, people.

And because of the tax, lots of people are bailing from the churches in the affected countries; reasons range from disagreements with church policy to the necessity of belt-tightening in the current economic climate.

Now, the apostle Paul is pretty straight-forward when it comes to church financial support: it’s to be freely given, not coerced or taken from the people (Peter felt the same way, see Acts 5:1-11); it’s also to be a gift of the heart, so no engraved-in-stone-percentage-of-income was ever mandated – the people gave what they could afford (and, in some cases, more than they could afford) based on how the Holy Spirit directed them.

Paul did acknowledge the responsibility of the individual congregations to support their leaders (though Paul never asked for support himself), and that good leaders deserved ‘double honor’ (‘the worker is worth his wages’); conversely, he resoundingly denounced those leaders and preachers who demanded payment for their services by calling them ‘false teachers’ and accusing them of only being in it for the money.

I don’t know about you, but I have a sense that those false teachers may well have done similarly to what we’re seeing in our more modern European clergy with this tax thing: I can imagine the ‘false teachers’ of Paul’s time refusing to fulfill their duties in regards to the Lord’s Supper, baptisms, marriages, and the like for those people who wouldn’t pay.  Now I’m not saying (nor am I suggesting) that those priests and preachers involved in this are ‘false teachers’ – they may or may not be preaching the ‘right things’, I don’t know – but they certainly seem to be more concerned with their incomes than the souls of the people they’re to serve.

Christian preaching and teaching is not a ‘pay for play’ proposition, folks.

One final point.  That these European churches are supported primarily from taxes collected by the government makes me wonder just how much government controls what the churches say and do.  I mean, think about what’s happening here in the States with government meddling in such church-related things as daycares and hospitals (facilitated by those same institutions accepting government money in the form of grants, Medicare and Medicaid, and the like); now imagine what it would be like if our government deliberately had a ‘church tax’ which was given to the churches for support (like that would ever happen here – that ‘church tax’ would end up in the General Fund for sure).

So these churches (according to the article) are losing membership.  I don’t doubt that in the least.  Much like churches which have dispensed in other ways with biblical teachings, those churches are (IMO) feeling the hand of God’s anger on them.

I pray they wise up.

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