Guest essay by Rousas J. Rushdoony
Today, the Lordship of the triune God is being denied; the tithe is neglected; the power of statism is increasing, and taxation is compelling men to pay a rent for their property…
Very little is said nowadays about the Biblical teaching on property and taxation, and with reason: we are so far from the Biblical way of life.
There was no property tax in the Bible. As H. B. Rand, in his Digest of the Divine Law, pointed out, “It was impossible to dispossess men of their inheritance under the law of the Lord as no taxes were levied against land. Regardless of a man’s personal commitments he could not disinherit his family by being dispossessed of his land forever.”  Over and over again, the Bible declares, “The earth is the LORD’s” (Exod. 9:29; Deut. 10:14; Ps. 24:1; 1 Cor. 10:26, etc.), and only God can exact a tax for it. The tithe is God’s tax for the use of the earth; it is not a gift to God but a required tax, and only giving over the ten percent is a gift to God. Such gifts are called “freewill offerings” (Deut. 16:10–11; Exod. 36:7; Lev. 22:21, etc.), because they depend on man’s free will, whereas the tithe is required.
Civil government of the state could not tax the land, because the land is not the property of the state but of God, and no state has a right to levy taxes against God’s possessions. The support of civil government was through an increase tax, that is, a production tax.
H. B. Clark, in Biblical Law, pointed out that Samuel declared it to be a sign of tyranny and evil when civil government required as much for its support as God does in His tithe.  Samuel said, of the tyrant, “He will, besides, take a tenth of your grain crop and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants … He will appropriate a tenth of your flocks, too, and you yourselves will become his servants” (1 Sam. 8:15, 17, Berkeley Version). Today civil government takes more than a tithe of our income: it takes about 45 percent!
America was settled by Christian men who established their colonies on these Biblical laws: they made property exempt from taxation to protect men in their liberty. In its first session, in 1774, the Continental Congress denied that Parliament could tax real property. As Gottfried Dietz has stated, “As to property, the delegates felt it should be free from seizure and taxation.”
The idea of a property tax came in very slowly, and such a tax appeared first of all in New England. The old Biblical standard gave way as Deism, Unitarianism, and atheism spread. Such unbelievers saw the state as man’s savior, and therefore they favored placing more and more power in the hands of the state.
The property tax was resisted in many areas, especially in the South, where post–Civil War “Reconstruction” made it a weapon for destroying the old order.
Today, the Lordship of the triune God is being denied; the tithe is neglected; the power of statism is increasing, and taxation is compelling men to pay a rent for their property. Property was ordained by God to establish men in liberty; it is now being taken from man, and liberty is waning.
If men could acknowledge the sovereignty of God, render to truly Christian causes God’s tithe, and then work to free the land from the tyranny of taxation, a great rebirth of liberty would be forthcoming. This is a cause to work for. Begin with yourself.
- Howard B. Rand, Digest of the Divine Law (Merrimac, MA: Destiny, 1943).
- H. B. Clark, Biblical Law, No. 128, Second Edition (Portland, OR: Binfords and Mort, 1944).
The original of this essay comes from A Word in Season: Daily Messages on the Faith for All of Life, Volume 6, pp. 22-24, a publication of the Chalcedon Foundation ministry.
The late Rev. R.J. Rushdoony (1916-2001) was the founder of Chalcedon and a leading theologian, church-state expert, and author of numerous works on the application of Biblical Law to society.
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