Is Leviticus 23:22 a validation of taxation from God?
22 ‘When you reap the harvest of your land, moreover, you shall not reap to the very corners of your field nor gather the gleaning of your harvest; you are to leave them for the needy and the alien. I am the LORD your God.’
A key note should be made that this is Israel under a theocracy. When comparing Biblical models of government and action to modern conduct, one should always distinguish between God’s direct rule, rule by man, and covenants for certain purposes/actions. Regardless of this past form of rule (theocracy) and what group that rule is applicable to (Hebrews), we can look at the language to compare God’s command of charity versus modern forms of welfare.
When God commanded this charity, He did not authorize a bureaucracy to operate and manage fields. Instead, he requests this act without an intermediary. The only two parties are the landowner and the welfare recipient. As one can infer from basic microeconomics, there is a savings received when there isn’t a middle-man absorbing expenses. There isn’t a “bureau of harvest” which must be paid and regulated to make sure the poor get food. Instead, the poor must work for their food by picking up the remains and corner crops of the harvest. Compare this to our modern welfare system where welfare recipients have to go through a chain of command, which costs extra money to operate, and often does not give just “food” to the poor. (The poor often get other items beside basic food, such as housing, couches and cell phones – see http://www.assurancewireless.com/Public/HowToQualify.aspx for an example). God does not make Israelites give anything but a basic food item which suggests that God does not want the poor dependent on charity for their total being.
Of weighty economic importance is God’s command for landowners – it is to LEAVE food. This type of transaction does not require any positive movement or time sacrifice from the landowner (as opposed to paying taxes to an intermediary). God does not ask the Israelites to perform any special services or work, or render anything to a leader to help the poor. God creates a system of optimal economic efficiency – allocating every bit of resource and labor with those who demand and work for it.
Unlike modern taxation for welfare, the example we have from God (as it is a command to Israel) is one that hinges on a passive donor and a working recipient. It has no bureaucracy and does not take the bulk of the landowner’s property (just the leftovers and edges).
One could argue that monetization of resource changes how the poor must be taken care of, but this is semantics as one could still hold to the remaining elements of God’s command minus the “harvest.” Imagine, for example, that the poor go around the neighborhood and ask for money/food from those in town, and, as Christians/neighbors we helped them with what extra we had (maybe some cans of food, dry pasta and a few dollars). If we did this voluntarily, we could save the millions lost in welfare programs which require office spaces, employees, paperwork and more.
Some may argue that people will be selfish and simply not give. This may be true, but we as free people and Christians can exhort others through example to help those truly in need. (Even the most secular will buy strangers candy on Halloween – why not have a voluntary “charity holiday”).
Also of benefit is that individuals can more readily see those who are simply lazy and do not want to work in our community. Abuse of charity is something that can be more readily observed when the people giving charity are in closer proximity to those receiving it (unlike a welfare department centered in one city of the state).
So while God’s command of charity could be considered a pseudo-taxation (in that it hardly compares to what our system of welfare is today), we could apply its principles to get rid of the welfare system we have today – one that is based in coercion and inefficiency.