So last night I was troubled by something that I said in my small group. We were working through Acts 4:30-35, specifically 32-35.
32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
Now, although I realize that this is meant to be speaking about communal living amongst believers, I guess I took it to a different level (probably not the right one). The question, what passage stands out was asked. For me, it was: “there were no needy persons among them”. Instead of viewing it as believers living in communities where other believers were not needy, I took it as there were no needy…in general. So then I went as far as saying, how nice for them. When we live in a generation where we are so unwilling to pay more taxes based on our income. HAHA. Ok. So, after sleeping on it—well, a night of tossing and turning because I couldn’t stop thinking about it… I realize that my comments on tax came out of no where.
Since I have my own blog, my need to be the person to have the last word, and also the ability to explain my every thought… here I go.
Back in the day (I know, already starting with a credible historical account), there was no need to use taxed money for social welfare/aide because the Christians/Catholics took care of the poor. Now, I am not going to address how poorly they did this. The (medieval) church was big enough to speak and look out for the poor and the Feudal system was not structured to take on the responsibility of this task. It was more of a private charity, the benevolence of the faithful (not to mention the idea of “good works = salvation). However, the idea of private charity failed in the Middle Ages (I believe).
“Nature, therefore has produced a common right for all, but greed has made it a right for the few” – John Knox (the end of the Middle Ages)
Then came the time of the “Protestant Work Ethic”, Individualism, the Friendly Visitors, Charity Organization Society, social workers, the principles of self-determination… Finally, with the Social Security Act, the federal government then took over the protection of the poor. A role very much like the medieval church.
The country then went through President Johnson’s “War on Poverty”, the establishment of the National Welfare Rights Organization, AFDC, Food Stamps, medicaid…
In a book by Alan Keith-Lucas, “The Poor You Have With You Always”, he writes that there were three basic alternatives (1960s):
1. Demogrant: grant is paid to rich and poor alike, and the cost is recovered by a progressive income tax.
2. Assure a minimum income for everybody by use of a negative income tax.
3. Expand the services that the community offers to all people without individualized payment on their part (i.e. American public school system).
Keith-Lucas goes on to say, “None of these services discriminate against the poor… they are more in the nature of pooled efforts. What is at stake is the amount that the wealthy are willing to contribute, not so much to the poor, but to the common good.”
Ok. So, if you have gotten this far in my rambling post, thank you. Here is my point.
Ready for it?
The church. We’ve failed to care for the poorest of the poor which has resulted in the government stepping in. Make your amends with that. How does the government (kind of) provide and protect the poor? Through funding for all the Departments (DOC, DCFS, DHS, DOJ, DOL, DPH…) which then helps fund their POS agencies. We know that with a lack of funding, these agencies and departments cannot provide the kind of services that are necessary to make change.
So, yes, I am one that thinks that a progressive income tax is a good idea. Sure, sure, Sean and I (+Pongo too) are living on a small social worker’s salary, and so of course this tax idea would not effect us… right now. But, if I could give more in taxes (even now) to help fund these needed services and help change our current economic and social policies, why not?
I do realize that with the way our lives are headed, one day, maybe Sean and I will be taking in more than $200,000 (Obama’s plan) a year. (My issues with people making so much money in a year will have to be discussed in a later post.) But, I truly believe that when and if that time comes, I will be more than ready and willing to pay that higher percentage of our income.