The devil and Jerry Brown quote tax scriptures for own purposes

Aug. 3, 2012

By Wayne Lusvardi

On August 2, California Gov. Jerry Brown erroneously invoked the following passage from the Christian New Testament in support of his proposed package of tax increases under Proposition 30 on the November ballot:

“For those whom much is given, much will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)

This is a reference to Brown’s proposed tax on the :rich” earning $250,000 or more.

However, Brown apparently isn’t much of a New Testament scholar. That New Testament scripture doesn’t directly refer to taxation, but to answering the question of who is a faithful servant.  Jesus was accused of subverting tax collectors to be unfaithful servants by abandoning their tax collecting duties:

“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man Matthew, sitting in the tax collector’s booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow Me!’  And he got up and followed Him.’” (Matthew 9:9).

Jesus Had a Tax Trial

Brown might have studied his Bible better before invoking Jesus’ name as a proponent of taxes. The all-important reference to Jesus and taxation in the Christian New Testament is Jesus’ tax trial before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Curator of Jerusalem.  Tax trial?  Yes, tax trial.  It is recorded in Luke 23:2:

“Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our state.  He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.’”  

By teaching people to shun paying taxes, Jesus was accused of “subverting the nation.”  In other words, he was accused of being unpatriotic by interfering with the payment of taxes.

In fact, Jesus went even further and said that if someone sins against you, and refuses to listen to your charges, you “should treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15).

According to Jesus, tax collectors should be avoided, like pagans.  Of course if people are taught to avoid and reject tax collectors, tax collections will suffer.

Jesus Was Leading Religious Movement Against Oppressive Taxes

According to Jean-Pierre Isbouts’ book “Young Jesus: Restoring the Lost Years of a Social Activist and Religious Dissident, Jesus was a member of a peasant resistance movement against oppressive taxes. Professor Isbouts is a liberal historian, filmmaker, archaeologist, and professor at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara.

According to Isbouts, families like Jesus’ were thrown into abject poverty by the taxes levied by King Herod and various Roman overlords such as Pontius Pilate. The result of government tax oppression was that greedy lenders foreclosed on farmlands and turned former landowners into indentured servants. Jesus doesn’t mention those greedy lenders who loaned money to landowners to buy seed and farm equipment.  Jesus lays the blame on the government and those religious authorities that sanctioned such oppression. Isbouts claims that tax injustices were the reason that Jesus was entering Jerusalem during the Jewish Passover claiming to be a religious messiah.

You don’t believe that Roman soldiers went around crucifying every person claiming to be a religious messiah in the First Century?  There were plenty of religious lunatics claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament book of Isaiah.  What led to Jesus’ crucifixion was his promoting a religious gospel that said that oppressive taxes were politically illegitimate. Reportedly, Jesus was eventually executed by hanging on a cross for the double charges of opposing taxes and claiming to be a religious messiah.

The closest modern day American analogy would be Jesus having been accused of being opposed to paying taxes to Obama and being a member of the Tea Party. What other interpretation could there be?  Certainly the Occupy Movement wouldn’t be opposed to taxes.

Quoting Scripture for One’s Own Purposes

In The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare wrote: “The devil can quote scripture for his own purpose.  An evil soul producing holy witness is like a villain with a smiling cheek.”  In the Christian Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 4, Jesus is reported to have encountered the devil that quoted scripture.

Brown is cherry picking religious scripture out of context to support his tax increase.

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