Taxes and Tithes

There is an area of public policy where I think Representative Paul Ryan, the conservative Republican who heads the House Ways and Means Committee, and I may agree, or at least where I think he is speaking a truth that comports with my understanding of biblical truth.

When he says that we need to widen the tax base so that more income is taxed–and admits that much income that currently is not subject to tax belongs to the richest Americans–I applaud. This principle of widening the base from the top down–it is a clear principle for Ryan–lines up well with my belief that, in tithing to support the work of God, all my income be included in the calculation.

What I mean is that I tithe on my gross not my net. Theologically, the principle for me is that I tithe to God before I give to the government, not after. God comes first, then the government–so I tithe even on the portion of my income that the government claims in taxes.

In terms of tax policy, what Representative Ryan is saying is that all income is subject to tax because no source of income is so special that it should be exempt. He might not put it this way, but I understand him to mean that we all have responsibility to maintain our government.

And it is interesting that his proposal has the highest incomes taxed at a 25% rate and the rest of us pay at 10%–the biblical tithe rate. He says this can be done and the result will be tax reform without raising taxes. We may part company on the question of increased revenue, because I think there are some needs we are not meeting adequately.

But I really want us to get our fiscal house in order, and think his proposal provides an opportunity to move forward. I hope he can find some colleagues, on his side as well as the other side, to join in the conversation. And make something happen.