One will not be too far from the truth to say that Mario Monti, the Prime Minister of Italy, occupies the throne of Caesar thereby making him Caesar Monti. I recall how during the protest the other day in Tahir Square, many banners bear the inscription “Mubarak as the last Pharaoh”.
Caesars, like Pharaoh, are worshipped as gods. Caesar is lord was a slogan when the Romans ruled the world. Central to the quest of all like Caesar is to own all the gold everywhere. The Roman Empire, like every government ran on revenues – taxes, being central in other to balance the books, ensure surplus and guarantee the prosperity of the Emperor and the empire.
Tax defaults and tax evasions are treated as treasonable felony. For any attempt to defraud the government of any form of income is viewed as an effort to undermine the ability of government to discharge are duties, which duties include the security of lives, property and the territorial integrity of the nation against internal and external aggression.
Therefore, one can imagine what the Pharisees where up to when they asked Jesus if it was okay to pay taxes. For the days that Jesus walked the dusty roads of Palestine, the land was under the occupation of the Roman Empire. Even his birth fell within the period that Caesar Augustus decreed that the whole world be should be taxed, which forced his parents to return to Bethlehem for the decree required all to return to their place of origin. For Colonial Masters are only interested in all that they can get for the good of the home land, caring less for the colonies. The Pharisees in their foolishness thought that Jesus being the son of God had anything politically against Caesar or his government. Indeed he had, but the matter would be resolve spiritually and not by leading a socio-economic rebellion. For in his wisdom, Jesus said to give to Caesar what was Caesar’s.
For we also saw in certain place, where Jesus was asked to pay a form of tax, a request he willingly comply with. Although not having the sum that was requested, he asked Peter to go and fetch it from the mouth of the first fish that he would catch from a nearby river. His principles of giving Caesar that which was his, made him comply. Many people today use these instances to argue that the church should be taxed.
This debate on whether to tax the Church is as old as the Church. In many nations, Churches and other religious body are classified as charity and are exempted from all form of taxations – even in the Rome of Caesar. This some say is partly because the church is seen as God’s business and in toeing the wisdom of Jesus, Caesar said to leave God with what was God’s. Others think maybe because the church use to be very poor and miserable, the church used to be synonymous with poverty. Poverty used to be qualified by the church rat – “as poor as church rat”.
The current economic crisis rocking Europe is making Caesar Monti have a rethink. Caesar is apprehensive upon seeing the woes and the junk status of the economy of the Greece of Alexander the son of Zeus. Rome is doing everything not to go the way of Athens. Caesar wants some of the gold in the house of God. He recently announced an end to the tax exemption enjoyed by the Vatican because Caesar is broke. It is estimated that Rome stands to earn over a billion Euro in taxes from Roman Catholic Church.
Someone should remind Caesar Monti of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who went into the house of God and carted away the golden vessels used in the service of God. His heir who became king in his place decided to use the golden vessels from Solomon’s temple for the King’s business – he saw the finger writing on the wall.
The economic problem in Italy or Greece has nothing to do with the tax regime enjoyed by the church. Let Caesar learn how to manage his gold, he should not count on the gold in the house of God. Let Caesar keep what is Caesar and God the things that be of God. For God’s gold would further corrupt the treasury of the king, that is if the kingdom does not go under like Babylon.
Mr. Ogidigbo is the Lead Pastor at Holyhill Church, Abuja. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.