Kings of the Earth
"What do you think, Simon? he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?"
Today's sermon at church was about one of the better Kings of Israel, Jehoash. Jehoash was seven years old when he began to rule, which is pretty funny. This is what I got out of the sermon and what I think about it.
The text is covered in 2 Kings 12 versus 1-16. The text discusses a young King who "did was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days". The reader should understand that does not mean he was perfect. A preceding text, 1 King 8:46 informs us "there is no man that sinneth not" and earlier texts take precedence over later text. Therefore, we should understand what is intended is to describe Jehoash's character to us human readers in a general way which we can understand. That is, Jehoash was determined to "do right" as we humans would generally understand it.
According to the text in my Bible 2 Kings 12:2, the reason he behaved this way is "because Jehoiada the priest instructed him." The way the Jews "instructed" for the most part was to read out loud or write the holy texts that were being taught. So, generally, we could understand that Jehoash knew something of the scripture and that he had knowledge of the Lord. This text also highlights the benefit of being taught God's word - one benefits by being a more tolerable person to God.
Fortunately for us, in Christ, we no longer have to meet the priest to know God and we can come ourselves, and the way you do that is to read your Bible routinely. (lol)
Skip down to verse 4 and Jehoash gives a command to the priests to tell them to use money (he makes a list) that is regularly received for donation to be used by the priests for their livelihood, and to instead start using that money to rebuild and repair the temple. The casual reader might not catch, but this contradicts God's plan which is laid out earlier in the text. See next.
In Exodus 30:11 God lays what in modern "accounting history" terms would be considered a "head tax", or a so-called "flat tax" against each person. ("The rich are not to give more...and the poor are not to give less..." Ex 30:15). This tax was purposed or budgeted for the "service of the tent of meeting" (verse 15).
In addition, in other texts (E.g. Lev 5:16 - "shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest.") either money or food was given to the priest for their livelihood. For us, receiving a dead animal might seem "weird" but for anyone of the time this was the equivalent to adding to their savings account. Such an animal would be preserved and feed a family for days weeks or months. This is how the Lord took care of the priests and how he took care of the temple.
Even though Jehoash may have meant well, he inadvertently rearranged things in ways that HE thought would be best and his results were not stellar -- no one complied. (2 Kings 12:6 "the priests had made no repair...").
In versus 9-15 we see somewhat a restoration. A box is put out for the temple, so people are paying the tax "on your honor" and when they did so, there was plenty of money to repair the temple, and they didn't even have to count the money because it was so blessed, and the repair men acted honestly and God was able to do with that portion what the priests couldn't do with ALL OF IT.
At the end of the story, in verse 16, the script reminds us that the certain moneys still belonged to the priests. This is important to reflect on. God did not put this here on accident. According to the scripture, certain money such as that which was given in Lev 5:16 above, doesn't belong to God, but according to God, it belongs to whomever is the rightful priest. This is a property right that is also connected to the appointed priests, which were the Levites as also mandated by God in earlier texts (you cannot understand one without also remembering the other).
We also are to understand that God is using this arrangement to our benefit because, in case you forgot, Jehoash was such a good boy because "the priest instructed him".
This story also proves that God is a Libertarian because he uses a natural free market. The more people sin, the more they offer in the guilt offering, to support more priests which are needed to process all the sin offerings. On the other hand, if sin decreases, people will be "paying" less, and eventually the price for priests will drop and some of them will drop out and become shoemakers and stuff instead. So, God is a libertarian but with a little "L".
Finally, that brings me to Jesus. While contemplating this after church today, I remembered what Jesus said about tax and the story directly intersects with this one. Jesus doesn't seem to be quite so aligned with the idea that the tax collector is using the money to the benefit of the people. In Mathew 17, Jesus and Peter are essentially confronted by the tax collector to pay the temple tax mandated earlier in Exodus 30. At that time Jesus, in a round about way, reveals the tax is no longer being collected by God but by the "Kings of the Earth". Jesus also shows us that the money is no longer being used to their benefit and that when it is pragmatic to advance the Kingdom we may still pay such a tax to "go along", without thinking we need to right every wrong along the way.
Author: MarcusBy Marcus