Let’s assume for discussion purposes that your father died. He worked hard for everything he had in life. He was an entrepreneur and he also owned his own business, paying his employees well. His company produced a cleaning product that he invented after years of experimentation and trial and error. When he got his formula just right, taking a huge risk, he borrowed $150,000 from friends and relatives and began producing his cleaning solution. Quickly, it was found to be superior to all other cleaning products on the market, ultimately being used by 75 percent of all households in America.
He lived a good life and was very generous. In addition to paying his taxes, he gave 30 percent of his income annually to his church and to many other charities that encouraged education, health care and community well being. He didn’t do it to get awards or public approval, but believed, “God had blessed him and to whom much was given much is required.”
Shortly after his death, his widow got sick and died of congestive heart failure. Upon her death, people came into their home and took half of everything that they had acquired over their lifetime together.
The three children protested, but the law seemed to be on their side. They took half the furniture, half of the real estate and even half of the money in their parent’s bank account. Half of everything that their parents had worked so hard for was taken away.
Were these random thieves? Were the adult children held at gun-point while others looted their parent’s assets? No! In this case and many like it in America, the police were powerless to do anything.
January 1, 2011, the federal government imposed a tax of up to 55 percent of any estate valued at more than $1,000,000. That means the Federal government will come into your home, take half of everything you have worked for and use it for their purposes. And it is legal. But is it moral?
Maybe you don’t think it will happen to you. One million dollars seems like a lot of money to most people. But let’s imagine that your parents bought a house in the mid-sixties for $35,000 and it happens to be in California on the beach or in Washington DC. Over 50 years, the house value has increased to over a million dollars. When your parents die, the government comes in and takes half of everything. They didn’t help pay the mortgage in the tough times. The government did not help make repairs and paint the house over the years. But as soon as your parents die, they come with their hand out and want 50 percent of everything.
Is this theft? We would not tolerate it if an individual kicked in the door and started taking half of everything in the house, but we tolerate it if it is the government.
There is a similar story in the Bible found in 1 Kings 21 when a King and Queen had the power to take what they wanted because they could. What does God say about this issue?
Later, there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth. But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat. His wife, Jezebel, came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?” He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’
Jezebel, his wife, said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters, she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them. They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, “Naboth has cursed both God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel: “Naboth has been stoned and is dead.” As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up and take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite that he refused to sell you. He is no longer alive, but dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood–yes, yours!’ Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!” “I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel–slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.’ “And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country.” There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife.
Here is a Biblical example of what happens when those in governmental authority exercise their power for their benefit. Our Founding Fathers gave us a Constitution that allowed for average citizens of America to put people in authority that understands right from wrong. We have an election coming up where you have the power to place people worthy of your trust in office. These people have the power of the government to take your possessions and use them as they see fit. They will have the ability to pass legislation that recognizes the individual right of every individual to work hard, acquire assets and to determine how those assets will be used after their death.
There are no estate taxes on any American’s assets for those who died in 2010. However, we are allowing the government to take up to 55 percent of everything we own unless we elect leaders who find it immoral for government leaders to steal from American citizens.
Mark Harris is the Founder and CEO of 4Tucson, a catalyst to mobilize Christians in Tucson to help solve the city’s toughest problems. Previously he spent 10 years as a financial consultant with Merrill Lynch in Houston, Texas.