A deal President Obama struck with Republican leaders last week will extend tax cuts across the board including, controversially, to the richest Americans.
Some politicians argue that religious values should be reflected in the public square. Should this faith-based view of politics be applied to the economy? Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
In a time of economic turmoil and record poverty levels, are tax cuts for the wealthy moral?
My faith in Jesus Christ requires me to apply Jesus’ teaching and example to every aspect of life. Of course this means I want my own choices and the choices in my world –including both the politics and the economy of my country — to reflect the goodness and love Jesus’ desires of us.
And by the measure of Jesus’ ministry, continuing the tax cuts for the wealthy among us is clearly immoral.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).”
Extending the tax cuts for the wealthy violates both the law and the prophets.
Let’s consider the prophets first. The prophet Micah reminds us that God expects simple but difficult things of us: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).”
Luke 19:1-10 tells the story of Jesus choosing to dine with the rich man, Zacchaeus, who promises to give half his goods to the poor and repay four times over all those he has defrauded.
Fair taxes for the American wealthy are the latter day form of the rich standing up like Zacchaeus to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.
Second consider the law. In Scripture, the heart of the law is the Ten Commandments.
The Eighth Commandment is “You shall not steal.”
All of us know that these tax cuts, when approved in 2001, turned a budget surplus into a deficit and that if left unchecked will result in us stealing from our children and our children’s children by bumping what is our responsibility down the road to them. What we borrow now will have to be paid for by our children. This is stealing pure and simple.
Jesus summarized the law and the prophets in the equally simple but difficult commandments to love God and love our neighbor. Ending these tax cuts would do both, obeying God’s law and loving those who come after us.
From a Christian perspective, ending these tax cuts is the moral thing to do. Not just shame is ours if we fail here, Divine judgment is ours as well.