Robbing From Religion

Robbing From Religion

For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.   1 Timothy 6:10

As America goes further away from God and farther away from our Christian heritage it is clear to see that the road ahead for churches may include paying taxes; (property taxes, commercial taxes, etc).

A recent magazine article in Time titled: “Now’s the Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions,” suggests that the government tax the church if that church does not affirm the now “nationally accepted” redefinition of marriage. (http://time.com/3939143/nows-the-time-to-end-tax-exemptions-for-religious-institutions/)

With government spending out of control and finances tight in nearly every state and locality, we can see the hunger and thirst that some believe taxing houses of worship will satisfy. For example: “According to former White House senior policy analyst Jeff Schweitzer, PhD, US churches own $300-$500 billion in untaxed property. New York City alone loses $627 million in annual property tax revenue due to 9,500 churches being tax-exempt, according to a July 2011 analysis by New York’s nonpartisan Independent Budget Office.  (http://churchesandtaxes.procon.org/#background)

Some leaders are very hungry for some of that “financial value.” As a side note, getting more income is not the problem or solution. The remedy in any financial crises is to spend less. Consider Proverbs 13:7 – “There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.”

A tax on a not-for-profit such as a church will cause that institution to re-evaluate its ministries, staff, budget, and opportunities to help people in the community.  Some well-intentioned business people and even government officials would do well to see more than the dollar signs and remember why churches are tax exempt to begin with.

The history of not taxing churches is clearly communicated by “churchandtaxes.procom.org.”

“The tax exemption for churches can be traced back to the Roman Empire, when Constantine, Emperor of Rome from 306-337, granted the Christian church a complete exemption from all forms of taxation following his supposed conversion to Christianity circa. Church property used for religious purposes was also tax-exempt in medieval England, based on the rationale that the church relieved the state of some governmental functions, and therefore deserved a benefit in return. The English Statute of Charitable Uses of 1601, which included churches along with all other charitable institutions, formed the basis of America’s modern tax exemption for charities.

By the time of the American Revolution, nine of the 13 original colonies were giving some kind of tax relief to churches. In 1777, Virginia officially enacted an exemption from paying property tax to “houses for divine worship.” [5] New York followed in 1799, and Congress exempted all churches in the District of Columbia from paying property tax in 1870.” (http://churchesandtaxes.procon.org/#background)

Not taxing religion actually goes back as far as Joseph living in Egypt.  Genesis 47:26 tells us:  “And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s.”  All production from a field was to be taxed, but there was no tax on property owned by the priests.  In an agricultural based society, the yield from the field was many times a livelihood and currency.

Some would say that the religion is robbing the state – but maybe it is the other way around. Perhaps in the days ahead, the state will be robbing from religion. Consider this; many people have already robbed from religion in discounting the real impact that the local church can have on a community.

There are many ways in which a church’s value cannot be determined by “Financial Value.” How can a person put a price tag on a happy home or a life of peace and contentment? Some things are not calculably tangible.

Here are a few considerations why churches should remain tax-free:

1. Relief Requests. Churches have been faithful to relieve the poor and help the needy. Many churches have food programs and offer financial education in exchange for temporary financial assistance.
2. Special Requests. Churches have been faithful to help it’s members and also people outside the church asking for help. Most churches field requests for help, most often from people who are not members or even attenders of that particular local church. These special requests are evaluated and then assistance given as able.
3. Life Jackets. Churches have been faithful to offer crisis counseling for repairing marriages, reconciling a rebellious child and offering parents help with parenting. In a way, churches throw those drowning life jackets to help them “stay above the flood.” These services come at a minimal cost, occasionally charging only materials and books, or even totally free of charge at times.
4. Perspective Intact. Churches have memberships of people who are not charged admission for weekly worship services. The spiritual refreshment offered in these services affords the attenders new peace, a fresh perspective, and a healthy view of life. It can affect the insurance and medical industry as blood pressure drops, rest is taken more frequently, and peace of mind relaxes the body.
5. Peace Intact. Churches have consistently preached against violence and criminal activity. When those attending church services put into practice what they have been taught, crime decreases in the community. I have heard of years gone by that following some church revival meetings, bars and taverns closed up because of the woes of alcohol and the Bible admonitions against it. In those towns, families were abused less by drunken husbands and fathers. In addition, the towns “sobered up” and became profitable because the workers were able to get the job done with all their faculties of mind. “Love your neighbor” is a tremendous truth that can change a society for the better no matter what a person’s political or religious mindset may be.
6. Missions Impact. Churches have sent missionaries around the world. Where the light of the Gospel goes, other benefits to mankind and society go. Some missionaries start schools, and colleges. Some drill for water and find creative ways to make the local water safe for those in their field of service. Some take electricity to far-away places or build radio towers connecting people to society. Other medical mission teams have healed the sick, delivered babies, fought Aids, and started clinics.
7. Community Impact. Churches have looked for ways to minister to the community. Offering a place of worship and free religious education. Vacation Bible Schools, teen youth rally’s, men’s conference, ladies conference and more. Even if there is a slight charge to attend some of these meetings, it is nothing near the cost to host these community minded events. When things are given away free, people tend to devalue it. Some churches attach a monetary amount to develop a mindset of value and commitment. If someone pays $10 to attend an event, they will probably show up. I have planned meetings for 100 people before and seen only 25 show up. You see how practical sometimes it is to get a commitment. What do you do with all the left-over food, or material for an event?
8. Musical Benefits. From Elvis to Justin and Katy, many skilled vocalist got their start singing in church services and church musical programs. Not to endorse secular musicians, but many a musicians “contribution” to society started in a church.
9. Funeral Benefits. Funeral services, planning the service and offering hope during a time of loss should not be taken for granted. Family meetings in homes and other locations with grieving people is something most pastors do with too much regularity. It is sad to see people pass into eternity for the time we will no longer share with them. There are many unaccounted hours of preparation, study and meeting with family and even funeral directors. Most of the time a monetary gift will be given to the pastor for his effort, but it is normally a token gift of appreciation, not a wage of compensation for his ministry.

These areas just mentioned are going to be impacted if the state begins to tax religion. Churches will lay people off work and ministries will be re-assessed and in some cases the impact into the community will be lessened. Yes, some would say that religion is robbing the state – but could it be the other way around? If the state begins to tax churches then the state will be robbing from religion. Let’s not overlook the real value that churches bring that goes far beyond money. Don’t rob from the real value that religion brings to the table.

The church does not “love money” but it does “use money” as a tool for good.  Many other benefits could be considered for churches, “faith based” ministries, and other not-for profit institutions.  Please consider the real impact that the local church can have in the advancement and betterment of a community.

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