Thursday, October 6, 2011

Donations Are Not Tax Deductible, Then Again I Don't Get Any

Today our current government is attacking Christianity.  Specifically, they are attacking the long policy of letting churches determine their own ministers.  The current law of the land is that churches are not held to federal employment laws because to do so would be to interfere with religion and a violation of our First Amendment rights.  Currently that entire policy is part of a Supreme Court case where members of our current administration are seeking to overturn that policy.  This should come as no surprise as government has been attacking religion even in our nation for a very long time.  My topic today is not the attacks of government on religion, but how our own faith misses the point in joining itself with government.  Many of you know that churches are tax exempt.  This means that they do not pay money to the government for the money you donate and the money you donate can be deducted from your income.  This is not done out of the goodness of our government, but as a means of control.  It is a tragic contract that allows the government to hold a financial hammer over the church.   I believe that Scripture is clear on such agreements.
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?  2 Corinthians 6:14 NKJV
You see, to be tax-exempt a church must be what is called a 501(c)3 organization and as part of that agreement "it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates."  In other words, the government is paying off the church to not try to influence it.  I know that my view goes against 99.999% of all churches in our nation and also goes against my current church and every other church I have ever belonged to, but I believe this to be something that churches need to reconsider.  I realize that churches have the right heart.  I know that they are trying to be good stewards and maximize their finances to better minister to the needs of the church family and the community at-large.  I know that being tax exempt not only allows the church to hold onto its own money, but encourages others to give in that their donations are tax-deductible.  It sounds like a deal too good to pass up, but usually those are the deals we should immediately pass up.  Unless it is the things of God, there is no such thing as "too good to be true." 

While it is true that only one church (that I can find) has ever lost its tax-exempt status, the fact is that it proves that it can be done.  You can not hide behind your First Amendment rights (this church tried to) because you forfeit those rights as part of getting the tax break.  Even if you do not lose your status, you are painting yourself into the corner or either not commenting on matters of public policy (and of great interest to the church and its members) or you are in danger of not living up to your word to not get involved in those areas.  God may not have liked the agreement you signed to limit your message, but He will still hold you to it.  You can not agree to something and then not go along with it because you do not agree with it.  Our "yes" must be "yes" even when we do not like its consequences.  Governments love to leverage control through support and this is just one more of those cases.  I do believe that the only reason that more churches have no lost status is because they were for the right party at the right time or they cowered at the IRS warnings. 

There are also a number of churches who extend their affiliation with government.  We have the Faith-Based initiatives where churches partner with government to serve their community.  Again, this is well-intended but it is misguided.  There are trade-offs to any such alliance.  The authority of God and His Word must not be challenged or compromised in any way and the church should never be a funnel for government propaganda.  The current main promotions of this partnership are Obamacare, childhood obesity, and fatherhood.  Obamacare is a political issue that churches in this group are expected to promote to their communities.  Childhood obesity is a nice idea, but I do not think that is really the role of the church.  Parents are responsible for the health of their children.  Fatherhood is something the church should be very concerned about, but in a Scriptural way.  While the Fatherhood Initiative may be a good idea, it must be taught in the context of a father's scriptural duties and not just secular ones.  The fact is that churches should be about equipping the saints to share Jesus with the greater community.  That often involves community service, but that service must not be an end but only a means to sharing the Good News with those to whom the church ministers. 

All in all, I think  that churches are well-intended but misguided in partnering themselves with government.  I realize the concern for money and resources, especially in a failing economy, but that concern must be settled by our faith in the ultimate Provider.  We must trust in God to supply those needs rather than compromise our message to qualify for a tax-exempt status.  I say this with all humility and I am not going to be so arrogant to say that just about every church is wrong on this matter, but I do think it is something that should be considered.  I know it is almost reflexive to get a tax-exempt status, but I think we must pause and pray before making that decision.  As the government moves further and further away from God, it will become more and more difficult for the church to remain silent on political issues.  The church must be free to preach against any politician, candidate, or legislation that stands against the laws of God.  To take the step of not having that tax break combined with taking that same tax break away from its supporters is a giant leap of faith, but one that I truly believe will be honored by God.  God is fully capable of supplying all the needs of His people and His churches and so I believe that we should take that step and trust Him to honor our faith with His provision.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV

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