The Flat Tax

Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Almost everyone has an opinion when it comes to the topic of taxes. Most would agree that paying taxes is necessary in order for one’s government to be able to function, but the rate and method of taxation is where you find many different opinions. One idea that some have suggested is a flat tax. This would require everyone to pay the same percentage of their income. As with any proposal, you will find people for and against the idea.

I certainly have my opinions about taxes, but that is not the purpose of this article. However, it is interesting that a sort of flat tax can be found in the Law of Moses. Yet this flat tax did not result in everyone paying the same percentage; instead, they all paid the same amount. Notice the instructions regarding the contribution for atonement:

The Lord also spoke to Moses saying, ‘When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord, when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.

This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the Lord.

Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.

You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves’” (Exodus 30:11-16).

This “tax” that was levied was for the sanctuary or the tent of meeting. The instructions specifically stated that it was a contribution to the Lord and amounted to atonement money.

Atonement made fellowship with God possible. Therefore, it is significant that the amount was not calculated based on a progressive tax rate (like we have in the United States) with the people earning higher incomes paying a higher percentage. It is also noteworthy that it was not a flat tax in the sense that many propose today (the rich still pay more, but everyone pays the same percentage). Instead, God was very clear that the amount paid was to be the same, regardless of one’s income or wealth. Both the rich and the poor would pay the same half shekel tax in order to make atonement for themselves.

This teaches us a very important lesson – when it comes to spiritual matters and salvation (atonement), there is no difference between the rich and the poor. Our modern society, in many ways, treats these two groups differently (current tax codes are just one example). Therefore, the temptation exists for us to do the same. Yet before God, the rich and poor are equals.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28).

These two economic classes – slave and free man – were irrelevant when it came to salvation. If one was willing to become a Christian, Christ would accept him. We must have that same attitude.

We have all been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Christ died on the cross to save the whole world (John 3:16). Peter told Cornelius and his household, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

The atonement that Christ made for sins on the cross was for all equally. Likewise, the responsibility to meet His conditions of grace is given to all men equally. Riches will not save us. Suffering in poverty will not save us either. Instead we must obey the gospel of Christ in order to receive the forgiveness of sins and be counted as one of His disciples.

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  1. Michael Franzen says

    Interesting idea flat tax. In the bible passage you mention(and others like Melchizedek from Abraham) Was it from there total wealth or just the increase? ie tax on increase or on total assets?

  2. In the case of Melchizedek & Abraham, the tithe (tenth) was of the spoils of war. According to Leviticus 27:30-33, the tithe was of the seed of the land, the fruit of the trees, and the of the herd or flock. These were “renewable resources” and would continue to grow and produce each year.