Yesterday’s budget decision to drop the higher tax rate from 50p in the pound to 45p has caused a bit of a stir. George Osborne has tried to hazard a guess as to what rich people will do if asked to pay less of their wadge to the state. He hopes that, somehow, by taxing the rich less this will make them want to give more to the treasury, whilst the opposition cry “Not fair! Tax the greedy pigs.”
At the heart of this problem lies the human heart. Fiddling with rates of income tax is like playing a game of poker, it all hinges on how greedy people are. The answer is obvious. Greedy people only pay what tax they have to, which is why more and more tax loopholes need to be closed.
What if there was a way that greed could be overcome? What if people who had plenty gave generously, either to the state or, if the state is incompetent at running things, to private institutions, let’s call them charities, which look after the sick, educate the young, provide for the poor and maintain communities.
The secular state is hamstrung on this matter because there is no means to extract tax from grudging people except to use the threat of punishment. If all people give tax grudgingly, then the state feels like a bit of a monster. The confessionally Christian state, on the other hand, can use both the law for those who give grudgingly and the gospel of grace as the primary motivation to give generously. What is this gospel? It is that God gives generously to us, not only in creation but also through the death and resurrection of his Son, who saves greedy sinners from hell and gives them a new heart of generosity. Christians give because they know that God has first given abundantly to them. We don’t need a Chancellor of the Exchequer who fiddles with tax, we need one who confesses Christ and stewards the money people give towards the same ends that Christ directs us. And, we need a nation filled weith believers, whose hearts have been turned inside out by Christ, so that we all give and not hoard.
You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.
10 You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops.
11 You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”