But you need to keep in mind two things (among the others covered further down): (1) It’s not a matter of your wallet, but a matter of what is right in God’s eyes (Mt. 6:24), and (2) you’re not just voting for something that affects you; you’re voting for what affects your entire community. Who doesn’t want their property value to go up? Yet as a believer, are you willing to say it’s okay to go force your neighbor to apportion some of his own earnings toward keeping your property value up? Is that really loving your neighbor?
But I don't want to get ahead of myself.
First let me assure you of the things that I am not saying:
I’m not saying that I don’t support my brothers and sisters in Christ who are involved in the government public education system (whether faculty, staff, or parent).
If you are such a person or are preparing to be such a person, please read my note to you.
I’m not saying that I don’t support public education at all.
As I’ve stated elsewhere, I greatly support publicly available education. And I even think it’s an important aspect of the great commission, as believers in Christ, to endeavor to teach publicly for the sake of making disciples of all nations (Mt. 28:18-20). But as I said in that article, I find no Biblical support for government-mandated, government-funded, government-controlled public education. (So if you haven’t first read that article, I encourage you do so here).
I’m not saying that the current school system (at least in my case) is necessarily spending the money they already do receive unwisely.
I can’t speak for all school districts. I certainly know there are many that spend the funds that they receive very poorly; and the students suffer from it. But in my case, from everything I've seen (in my limited time within this local school district) I can’t help but to admire their fund allocation. Now I don't truly know. But from what I have been presented, it seems they've done a very good job with the money they’re given. But again, as stated previously (and what I’ll attempt to argue below), is that they simply do not have a legitimate right to that money in the first place.
I’m not saying that we shouldn't pay our taxes.
Doubtless at the end of this post (unless I state it up front here), people will start quoting Matthew 22:17-21 to me about how we need to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God’s what is God’s. I don’t argue with that for a moment. And if my local levy passes I fully plan to pay the 6.3 mill increase to “Caesar.” The question is, what is Caesar lawfully allowed to require according to God’s Word? Because if in our democratic-republic “we the people” have a voice in what Caesar is allowed to take, then certainly "we the Christian people" must think very carefully (i.e. Biblically) about what God has authorized Caesar to take and for what purpose. Because believe it or not, in our voting we’re in effect acting as little Caesars, by doing our part in ruling society and enacting laws.(1)
So let's get to it then - what am I saying?
I am saying that as those who are saved by Christ and sanctified (set apart) by the transforming power of His Word (Jn. 17:17), we must think carefully about what His Word authorizes the government regarding its role, functions, and funding. Does God’s Word ever authorize the government to tax its citizens for the purpose of state-run education?
I've previously put forth a no answer to that question. But before we can even answer that, I think we need to ask a more basic question: what is a tax?
A tax is a demand placed upon citizens by the government, enforced by the coercive power of the government (whether by penalty or threat of penalty), in order to generate revenue for the government so that it can carry out its functions.
In other words, a tax is when the government says, “Give me your money, or I will hurt you” (whether by fine, imprisonment, or some other form of coercion).
If a private citizen did this to another private citizen, it would be called robbery. If you went across the street to your neighbor and said, “Listen, you’re going to give me $1000 a month so I can send my child to school, or else I’ll kidnap you or take your house away,” you would go to jail.
So why can the government do the exact same thing without any repercussions?
Let's take another example, this time not related to tax.
If you witness a murder and then later confront the perpetrator and say, “Listen, I saw you murder that person the other day, and so now I’m going to bring justice upon you,” and you then kill the man, that would not be justice; it would be another murder.(2)
So what’s the difference when the government executes this man after finding him guilty through a proper trial?
The difference is that the government is ordained by God to use “the sword” for the very purpose of enacting God’s vengeance on civil wrongdoers (Rom. 13:4). In other words, God has given the government the authority and right to execute murderers when they’re found guilty, and to do other functions pertaining to restraining civil evil, promoting civil good, and ensuring civil justice. When God gives the government jurisdiction over something, the government has the right to use its power in that realm. So the government has every right to execute a murderer when found guilty of murder. And the government has every right to receive tax revenue to support this function (Rom. 13:6).
The problem with government schools is that they fall outside the limited jurisdiction of what God has given to the government. Accordingly, by God’s standards the government does not have the right to use the sword in order to achieve public education (noble intentions notwithstanding). It’s simply not the task that God has assigned the government; and so when the government operates in that realm it is hardly much different than your neighbor coming up to you and threatening you into paying for his child’s education (or vice versa).
Now I'm sure there will be some arguments here. So I'll try to anticipate at least some of them.
Some will say, “But you see, we’re voting on this. The government isn't dictating it. Only if the majority of the citizens want to raise taxes (even their own taxes) in order to pay for schools, it is only then that it’ll happen. And that’s what makes it right.”
But there are a couple things wrong with this argument.
Some will say, “I’m a property owner, and I don’t mind paying the extra money - even for the education of other people’s kids. After all, aren't we supposed to help our neighbor in need? Isn't that the loving, Good Samaritan thing to do? (Lk. 10:29-37)."
And if this is you, bless you for your generosity in wanting to give so much for the education of others. And you should be applauded for wanting to help your neighbor in need.
But you see, making this a law is not a matter of you being able to willingly give up your own money in order to provide for someone else in need. If you want to give generously, please do so and be that example for others.
But by making this a law you’re more than obligating yourself to that amount of generosity, you’re obligating your neighbors (by coercion I remind you) to that same standard of generosity. You’re forcing them to be just as generous as you (in other words, you're bullying them). And that is not generosity; and it is not loving your neighbor. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus concluded with “Go and do likewise” not “Go and enact unjust laws that force your whole community to do likewise by way of coercion.” I applaud your charity; but Biblical charity is a matter of the heart (2 Cor. 9:7), not coercion. Coercing others into giving is nothing more than robbing others. And that is not loving; neither is it helping your neighbor.
Still others will say, "I realize the point you're trying to make; but practically what do you really think this will accomplish? This is the way things have been for a long time, and free public education is something for which America has a longstanding history and tradition, and something that is not going to go away. What will one "no" vote do, other than hurt the education of the children who, rightly or wrongly, are in that system?"
And if this is you, I applaud your efforts and desire to make education available free of charge to the public. And I admire your respect for history and tradition.
But there are still some things to consider when you reflect on these things.
First, government public education is anything but free (as stated previously here). Even the reason for this post trying to persuade Bible-believing Christians to vote no on raising taxes in order to support government public education means, by nature of the case, that the education is not free. It's paid for from funds that are collected from private citizens through means of the coercive power of the government.
Second, in the realm of the Christian life, it's never a matter of practicality more so than it's a matter of living a life that is pleasing to the Lord (Prv. 3:5-6; Phil. 1:21).
Third, I realize government-run, public education is a longstanding tradition in America. But that doesn't make it right and doesn't excuse believing Christians from participating in it for the sake of tradition (Mk. 7:8ff).
Fourth, I'm not going to speculate on what one "no" vote will do. And of course, that's particularly why I'm writing this, to persuade others so that there will be many more "no" votes for this issue.
As to it hurting the children that are, rightly or wrongly, already in the system, I realize there are some small set backs as far as the practicality of it. But again, the Christian life is not a matter of practicality more so than it's a matter of living a life that is pleasing to the Lord; and this includes recognizing His Lordship in all areas of our life (our voting life being no exception).
But on the other hand, what are those set backs? And are they really hurting the children?
In the long term the goal is that the government system of education would collapse entirely. (Yes, I'm saying that is the Biblical long term goal.) Does that mean that education would go down? I don't believe in the slightest it would mean that. Parents would still want their children to be educated. And teachers would still be able to provide that education. But at that point, the citizens wouldn't be paying (by way of coercion) a middleman (the government) to facilitate the education of their children. They would be paying the schools of their choice directly. This would mean better pay for teachers (among other things) as well as the competitive marketplace atmosphere, which would foster more incentive for teachers to be continuously increasing their effectiveness at educating.(4)
And I know the follow-up question to that last paragraph: wouldn't this just make education only affordable to the rich, and neglect the poor?
And my answer to that is a resounding no. We need to face the fact that the middleman government gets a pretty sizable portion to "facilitate" (and regulate by the way) the education system. If the government was completely out of the way, and all the funds taken from citizens were now at their own disposal, even poorer citizens would still be able to afford education. And if not - guess what? One more reason to preach about generosity to the church. Make scholarships and grants available to the poor (through private, willing benefactors) - and through the spirit of Christian mercy help the poor and contribute to the great commission at the same time (2 Cor. 9:7; Mt. 28:20).
But even if the church and private citizens were negligent in their moral duty to help the poor, that still does not make bullying people into paying for education the morally right thing to do. I'm pretty sure even non-Christians know that two wrongs don't make a right. Christians ought to shudder at the idea.
Those are the questions I can anticipate anyway. I'm sure there'll be more.
But for now, there's just one last thing I'll mention about this whole issue - and that's what kind of education you're giving children when you give them government-run education. And I will once again say that as Christians we must be thinking about this issue as Christians.
First of all let me say that even if the government was a Christian government, it would still be wrong for the government to be involved in education. From the Christian worldview, education of children belongs to the parents of the children - not the government. So in case you're wondering, no I'm not saying that government-run education is wrong right now but that it will be good if or when the government bows the knee to King Jesus. (As a matter of fact, I believe that if or when the government truly bowed the knee to King Jesus it would immediately withdraw from the realm of education, because it would recognize it has no authorization to be there.)
But let's be realistic here. Is the government even partially a Christian government? Are the schools going to recognize the Lordship of Jesus Christ even in the slightest when teaching your children? We all know the answers to these questions. No!
And yet doesn't the Bible teach that the Lord of heaven and earth is to be in our thoughts as the very beginning (foundation) to all knowledge and wisdom (Prv. 1:7, 9:10) - yes including our knowledge in math, science, history, and all the rest? Doesn't the Bible teach that it is in Christ where the treasure of all wisdom and knowledge are found (Col. 2:3)? Doesn't the Bible teach that it is the foolish person who starts his thought life with the assumption that there is no God (Ps. 14:1)? And doesn't the Bible teach that the "wisdom" of this world (the agnostic, atheistic, anything but Jesus Christ world) leads only away from Christ rather than to Him (1 Cor. 1:18-25, 2:14)?
Since the government schools at the outset either blatantly deny the Lordship of Christ or, at best, teach that His Lordship is irrelevant when it comes to education, is this kind of education, which our children are receiving at the government schools, in accordance with Biblical standards for how and what our children (or anyone's children) are to be taught?
Not if we're to begin all their education with the knowledge that the LORD is God and that He is to be recognized and worshiped in all that we do (Deut. 6:4-9; cf. Eph. 6:4; 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17) - including education. This is true, Biblical education; and this is the exact opposite of the worldview they receive in the government schools.
While the government schools want to say you need to leave your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ at the door, the Bible says your commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ must abide in every sphere of your life (Deut. 6:4-9; cf. Eph. 6:4; 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:17). This is indeed how we are separated from the unbelieving world (Jn. 17:3, 17; Eph. 4:17-24).
And so we must soberly reflect on this concept. The government schools, by their very nature, teach our children not to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ (either because it's not smart or because it's irrelevant). And we find that the most sinful thing parents can do to their children is to teach their children (either directly or by neglect) that it's acceptable not to acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 10:9; cf. Mt. 18:6).
So even if all my arguments for why it's not Biblical, even in the best of scenarios, for the government to be involved in our schools are invalid, then at least consider what the actual situation is right now. Is this truly the kind of school system you want for your children or other parents' children to be perpetuated (through means of your or your neighbor's coerced funds no less)? Is this by any stretch of the imagination a Biblical model for the education of our children? The system that denies at the outset the Lordship of Jesus Christ and teaches the very children it's supposed to be educating to do the same?(5)
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
Yes, we must pay our taxes (Mt. 22:17-21; Rom. 13:6). And if or when a levy is passed to support the anti-Christian, government-run school system, we must submit to that and render to Caesar that for which he is calling.
But when we have a voice concerning what Caesar is allowed to take and for what purpose, we have every right (and I would even say the obligation) to limit Caesar’s funds and authority only to what God has authorized. And again, as I’ve stated elsewhere, God has not authorized Caesar to take money from its citizens for the purpose of government-mandated, government-controlled public education - least of all when that government-mandated, government-controlled public education at the outset either denies or makes irrelevant the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Starve the government beast. Help the poor from a generous heart and without robbing your neighbor. And bring up your children in the fear and instruction of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Vote "No" for your local school levy.
(1) "little Caesars" - I promise there was no pun intended; although I do enjoy a Hot-n-Ready every now and then. But on a much more serious note, we truly are acting as little Caesars when we vote for what should and should not be a law. And at that point we are subject like all rulers of the world to submit to the Lord Jesus in how we rule our societies (Ps. 2:10-12). Lest we be like those who "frame injustice by statute" (Ps. 94:20) and perish in the way, we ought to think through very carefully what the Bible says about the limits of government in its functions and roles. We ought to submit in our ruling to the King of Kings, the Lord Jesus.
(2) We need to make sure we differentiate here between protecting your own life or family while the crime is in progress, and after-the-fact vengeance upon the wrongdoer. Protecting yourself or your family while the crime is in progress is clearly allowed in Scripture, even to the point of killing the perpetrator (in certain circumstances) if it comes to that (Ex. 22:2-3). But after-the-fact vengeance is not permitted; that's why God has given the government the sword (Rom. 12:19, 13:1, 4).
(3) Yes, I would argue the same thing even if the government was a Christian government and the schools were Christian government schools (although I'm not sure how that would work, because in my understanding of Scripture a Christian government would recognize that education is not the task of the government and falls outside of what God has ordained the rightful sphere of government).
And so even if the whole town were devout believers except for one person, it would still be wrong to make it a law that everyone (including that one person) must pay taxes so that the government can provide education for the children of the town.
(4) I am not saying that that's the only way teachers would have the incentive to increase their effectiveness at educating. Especially when it comes to those who are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, they have an incentive to continually increase their effectiveness because they're serving Him, their Savior (Eph. 6:7-8). But by nature, the competitive marketplace always offers incentive to be better at your service - whether believer or not.
(5) Again I will say I don't for a moment believe all government public school teachers, administrators, or parents are ungodly or subscribe to this anti-Christian worldview. But I think it's clear that "the system" does. Consequently, when the teachers or administrators (and to some degree even the parents) recognize the Lordship of Jesus Christ in these settings, they have to do so covertly, quietly, or even only to themselves. And so to a large degree children do suffer from not being properly educated in that all areas of life - including thought life, science, math, history, and all the rest - all areas of life belong under the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Rom. 11:36).