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  • Edwin Shank

Of Peace Churches and War Taxes


Money photo taken by Edwin Shank


"And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." —Mark 12:17



Of Peace Churches and War Taxes

Good morning everyone, I hope you all can forgive my unannounced hiatus. I didn't forget this blog, though I guess my broken wrist did hinder my writing inspiration more than I wanted to admit. Typing with one hand can be done... but it's miserable. Believe me. So, my arm is healing and I'm back. :) Thank you so much for the many well wishes and prayers. That meant a lot. This week, I decided to address an excellent question posed by one of you a few months ago. Here is the question: "I understand that Mennonites are 'peace church people.' So how then, do you deal with paying taxes for war?" This is an insightful question. She apparently is familiar with the fact that Mennonites and other plain communities are morally opposed to war. In fact, it's not only war itself, but we also do our best to avoid violence, fighting back or retaliation of any kind. In plain people speak, we call this stance against war, violence, and use of force 'nonresistance.' This rather unusual word, nonresistance, comes from the teaching of Jesus in Matthew chapter 5 where He instructs His followers with these words: "But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." When plain people say that we believe in and practice nonresistance, it is this type of teaching we're referring to. In many places, Jesus teaches us to not fight evil with evil, to not attempt to curb violence with violence, to not try to 'teach-them-a-lesson-on-not-hitting-me' by 'me-hitting-them.' Instead, Jesus commands us to love our enemies, to forgive those who hurt us, to pray for those who hate us, to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile. All of this and more is encompassed when Jesus tells us to resist not evil but to overcome evil with good. He assures us that He's in control and He'll be in charge of the repaying if that is necessary. We are only to trust our lives to Him. He is the Judge of all the earth and He will do right. To be clear, I'm not saying that any of this is easy... We are as human as everyone else... but it is a 2000-year-old principle of our faith because Jesus taught it. We simply do our best to obey. But all of this is only background. This reader is not asking 'why,' she is asking 'how.' How do our people mesh this unbending 'do not resist evil' point of our faith with the U.S. federal law which requires us to pay taxes. And of course, we all know that a large portion of that tax money goes for military spending. The answer is simple... We pay the taxes. We believe it is our obligation to pay the taxes that the government askes of us... even if we do not approve of how they spend the funds. And yes, even if we know full well that some funds go for purposes which we, by faith, are morally opposed to. We believe that we are not accountable for how the government spends their money. Not any more than we are responsible for how an unbeliever may spend money that we've paid in a business transaction. The unbeliever may possibly buy crack, porn, or an AK47 to kill someone. But that would not justify us in declaring that we are only going to pay 80% of our full invoice since we believe he'll spend the other 20% on illicit activities that we are morally opposed to. The people of Jesus' day asked Him a similar question. -Mark 12:14-17 "...they say unto him, Master,... Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Shall we give, or shall we not give? He (Jesus) said unto them, bring me a penny, that I may see it. And they brought it. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? And they said unto him, Caesar's. And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Jesus' answer is both intriguing and enlightening. The coins of His day carried the image of Caeser, the Roman ruler. The money was the property of the government. So yes, Jesus says they were obligated to pay the Roman government the monetary taxes that they required. "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's." But Jesus was not finished... He then added this convicting rejoinder, "but give to God the things which are God's." This last unexpected command is both profound and convicting. We as humans are created by God in the image of God. (Gen 1:26) We have the image of God stamped on us. None of us can get away from it. We are created and owned by God. Furthermore, we are also God's because we have been bought with a price. "...ye are not your own... For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's." —I Corinthians 6:19-20 Since God both made us in His image and then bought us back (redeemed us) with His blood, we are truly doubly owned by God. So yes, Jesus says: Give your tax money to the government... it is theirs. But give your life to God... it is His. Until next time, Your Mennonite Christian friend,

~ Edwin Shank


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For this week, here's a song from a school in Ukraine. Click on the title to hear the song:

Give Me Thy Heart “Give Me thy heart,” says the Father above, No gift so precious to Him as our love; Softly He whispers, wherever thou art, “Gratefully trust Me, and give Me thy heart.” “Give Me thy heart, give Me thy heart,” Hear the soft whisper, wherever thou art: From this dark world He would draw thee apart; Speaking so tenderly, “Give Me thy heart.” “Give Me thy heart,” says the Savior of men, Calling in mercy again and again; “Turn now from sin, and from evil depart, Have I not died for thee? Give Me thy heart.” “Give Me thy heart, give Me thy heart,” Hear the soft whisper, wherever thou art: From this dark world He would draw thee apart; Speaking so tenderly, “Give Me thy heart.” “Give Me thy heart,” says the Spirit divine, “All that thou hast, to My keeping resign; Grace more abounding is Mine to impart, Make full surrender and give Me thy heart.” “Give Me thy heart, give Me thy heart,” Hear the soft whisper, wherever thou art: From this dark world He would draw thee apart; Speaking so tenderly, “Give Me thy heart.”

written by: Eliza E. Hewitt -1898



For maximum worship experience, read and contemplate on the lyrics while listening. Just let the message sink into your heart. Sing along if you wish. Remember... it's only the message of the words that feeds the soul!


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