Reconsider tax policy on pastors

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Dear Editor,

Just recently, the government decided to add Christianity in the Constitution to be the official religion of Samoa however, the new tax policy on pastors and on churches as planned by the Government contradicts Christianity. 

When it comes to the truth and the origin of things according to Samoa’s foundation, the Government needs to be very careful because according to the Bible the foundation of Samoa, the imposing of tax on priests (pastors) is unnecessary; it is a wrong thing to do. Therefore the Government’s new tax policy to impose tax on pastors and churches is unnecessary.

In the Old Testament (OT), the role of the tribe of Levi (Levites) of being priests (pastors) was starting from Israel’s departure from Egypt. The priest role was given specifically by God to the tribe of Levi (Levite) to take over because of God’s own will and because of the loyalty of Moses and Aaron (descendants of Levi) to God.

Part of that role as priest is the making of sacrifices to God from Israelite’s offerings. When Israel arrived and settled in Canaan, the land of Canaan became the land of Israel. The land was divided amongst the twelve tribes of Israel as their inheritance. 

The tribe of Levi was not given with any lands to be inherited according to God’s plan. Therefore according to God’s plan, the descendant of Levi’s only inheritance is the work of God or priest. What ever the Levite earns from the work of God that is for the Levite to keep even the sacrifices for God including tithe was also given to the Levites to inherit.

The tithe is a tenth of Israel’s produces and earnings set apart for God. It was commanded by God. It is for God’s work and for the supporting of priests.

The priests took out the tenths from Israel’s sacrifices as for their sacrifices for God. 

That situation is explained very clearly in the books of Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judge, Joshua, Malachi and others. Deuteronomy 18:1-2 “ The priests, the Levites – all the tribes of Levi – shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and his portions.

Therefore they shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the Lord is their inheritance, as He said to them.” 

There was a change about the entitlement for the priest role in the New Testament (NT). That new change about the entitlement for the priest role is the fulfilling of God’s announcements to Israel as in the OT. Some of those announcements are in the books of Deuteronomy (Chapter18:15-18) and Malachi (Chapter 3:2-3, 8, 9). 

Deuteronomy (Chapter18:15-18) is God’s announcement about a new prophet for Israel because Israel did not want to listen to the word of God that Moses told them in Horeb. Deuteronomy 18:15-18 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.

Him you shall hear according to all you desired of the Lord your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.”

And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.” 

Malachi (Chapter 3:2-3, 8, 9) is God’s announcement about the coming of Jesus to correct the wrongs of the Levites. Malachi 3:2-3, 8, 9 “But who can endure the day of his coming? And who can stand when He appears?

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like launderers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver; He will purify the sons of Levi and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness… Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me!

But you say, In what way have we robbed you? In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.”

Therefore the priest role in the New Testament was not given specifically anymore to the tribe of Levi. Anybody including the gentiles was entitling to become as a priest through faith in Jesus and by the acceptance of Jesus to be the salvation.

So the new entitlement for the priest role was starting from Jesus but the sacrifices or donations for the priests to inherit were not changed.

So a non-Levite priest such as Jesus or such as a Samoan priest, his inheritance is still same as the ones as explained in the OT. His inheritance is what he earns from the work of God at where ever he serves for the work of God.

Because the work of God is a continual mission until the end of this world, therefore the sacrifices or donations for the priests to inherit is still continuing and will be continuing until the end of this world. 

According to the gospel in the NT in relation to sacrifice and love, Christians are free to choose or set apart any portions from their produces and earnings for sacrifices and donations. That means, the sacrifices and donations are depending on affordability.

Therefore the sacrifices and donations can be a tithe or any portions that is more or less than the tithe. However, despite of that situation about the gospel in the NT, people of other religions in Samoa and around the world have decided to use the exact portion of tithe as in the OT as their sacrifices and donations.

It is still a right thing to do if they are honest about the keeping of that exact portion from their produces and earnings for their sacrifices and donations. However, whether it is an exact portion of tithe or any other portions, there is nothing wrong about it.

They are still sacrifices or donations for the work of God and for the priests to inherit. As I mentioned before that according to God’s will, the sacrifices and donations for priests and for the work of God is God’s. It was not done because of the power or an authority of any human being.

It was commanded by God the creator of human beings. So the imposing of tax on pastors and on churches is wrong. It is stealing or robbing of God’s belongings. That is disobedience and dishonoring of God. 

Furthermore, there is another interesting story in the Bible in the Book of Ezra (Chapter 7) about the king of Persia and the work of God. His name is Artaxerxes. 

During Artaxerxes’s reign, Israel and Judah were still in captivity in Persia. He is a gentile king but he honored the God of Israel with his government’s wealth. He donated his government’s wealth to rebuild Jerusalem and he released the people of Israel to return to Israel.

Not only that but he also made a declaration to prevent the priests and the work of God from taxation. Our Government should also learn a lesson from that story about the king of Persia. 

The nation of Persia is the second kingdom of five different kingdoms that ruled the world in the ancient times. The five kingdoms are Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome and the assemblage of different small kingdoms arose from the fall of the Roman Empire after the Roman Empire got struck by Jesus and His gospel. Jesus is the Kingdom of Heaven or the Kingdom of God on earth. The establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth was started from/by Jesus in Israel when Israel was under the control of Rome during the reign of Caesar. 

The arrival or the presence of Jesus in Israel is the fulfilling of God’s announcements regarding a new leader like Moses for Israel and the coming of Jesus to correct the wrongs of the Levites the priests.

As a result of Jesus’s presence in Israel, it causes an enormous divisiveness and tensions between people of Israel and their leaders such as the priests, the Pharisees, the Scribes and other sects.

Apart from that, there was also a great tension between Jesus himself and the Pharisees, the Scribes and other sects. Jesus’s presence was so tough with those leaders because they couldn’t handle Jesus’s wisdom about the law, truth, righteousness and everything else including the miracles that Jesus did.

As a consequence of those situations, there were lots of people turned away from the leaders of Israel and followed Jesus. Accordingly, the leaders of Israel made plans to kill Jesus and one of those plans involves tax that was paying to Caesar as in Matthew 22:15-22.

Matthew 22:15-22 “15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16 And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. 17 Tell us, therefore, what do You think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test Me, you hypocrites? 19 Show Me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this? 21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they had heard these words, they marveled, and left Him and went their way.”

In verse 21, Jesus said to the Pharisees to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s. If I explain Jesus’s answer to the Pharisees in other words according to my understanding of the OT and NT is this. The government of Rome has taken out its taxes from the people of Israel’s earning and that is Caesar’s. The Pharisees as always must set apart from their earnings the sacrifices for God and that is God’s. So it seems very clearly from Jesus’s answer, the things that have been commanded by God to set apart for God since Israel’s departure from Egypt and those things are sacrifices. That is the truth and that also is the truth about Christianity. 

The other clear situation that I have been identifying from Jesus’s answer to the Pharisees is the unique of the Kingdom of God. The money and currency was used by Israel during Jesus’s time was Roman money and currency. So the Israel’s earnings are Roman monies with the image of Caesar on them.

The tenth or other portions of those money earnings are sacrifices or donations for the priests to keep and for the work of God.

That is the submission of Caesar and the kingdom of Rome under Jesus’s authority and the Kingdom of God. That same situation was happening in all other nations around the world where Christians scattered to spread the gospel of God.

For that reason, our Government must not mixed up things set apart for earthly kingdoms with things set apart according to God’s command for the work of God or for the Kingdom of God. 

Once someone becomes as a priest or as a servant of God, he/she leaves his/her family behind and devote his/her life to serve for the work of God at which ever areas or places he/she had the calls for.

That means when the priests left their families for the work of God, they can’t take their family possessions with them for their survival. They rely on the work of God for survival. That is God’s plan and God’s will.

If they earn prosperities from the work of God, they deserve it. The Bible is also speaking about that situation about the reward for anybody who seeks first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness as in Mathew 6:25-34. However, if someone takes the pastor’s role for granted, that person will suffer the consequences of his/her unnecessary behavior.

So it is understandable according to the Bible, it is a Christian’s responsibility to provide for the pastors. Growing up as a Christian when I was young, my parents gave most of our earnings for the work of God.

They never challenges or questions anything at all. When my father gets paid on every fortnight before he passes away, he pays off our debt account at the shop and then buys himself a small Vailima.

But the first thing my father does before he goes to the shop, was putting away the money for his big Vailima; the work of God. So not only that my father obeys the command of God but also, he obeys the command of his earthly boss, my mother.

The boss always reminds everything of the church to my father. I realized lately in life when I found out the truth myself from the Bible that my parents was doing the right thing when my father was still alive and I am very proud of them about that situation.

My parents sets that great example for me and my siblings to follow even though I didn’t really understand at that time when I was young and when my father was still alive about the Bible and about what was going on about all those things relate to church.

I always thank God about that important gift that He put in the hearts of my parents because that gift is an inspiration for me about the truth of God.

I believe Mr. Editor that all other families in our country; they have been through the same situation about church that I have been through. Their heart is *the work of God. That is the reason why there is nothing can stop the power of the Kingdom of God from growing when Christians donate from the heart.

I also believe Mr. Editor, that is how Christians conquered the world starting from the time of Jesus and Caesar in Israel and Rome until now days, in the time of the Holy Spirit and our Head of State in Samoa. Apart from that, the Christians were also able to conquer with the small sacrifices they had because it was commanded by God.

As we learn from the history of Christianity, there was no one can stand the power of God when God uses his power through small things to defeat big things. 

Therefore if the Government cares to listen about the truth in the Bible the foundation of our country, then the Government should reconsider its new plan of imposing of tax on pastors and churches.

However, although that the Government’s plan to impose tax on pastors and churches is unnecessary but the motive and the goal behind that plan are necessary and they are very important.

So may God bless the Government with some other ways in order to fulfill and achieve its goal for our country. Last but not least, the Government must also avoid taxes on other non-Christian religions in our country according to the teachings of Christianity about love. 

 

Nanai Malonuu 

Lealaiauloto Nofoaiga

Fagamalo 

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