Those who impose taxes are quick to plead righteousness of the levy, as though it were a divine sacrament. We’re told we should feel some sort of patriotic zeal for bearing the burden of a bloated government that far exceeds its constitutional size.

When the ruling elite in Jerusalem tried to trip up Jesus and ask about the Roman tax burden, He famously deflected. “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Jesus knew they weren’t really curious about tax policy; they just wanted an excuse to turn Him into a criminal.

Rather than Pharisees trying to trip us up, we have the federal tax code. While the Bible has less than 800,000 words, the federal tax code has close to 10 million.

When Christians question the heavy burden of taxes, someone will misquote Jesus’ words as a divine order to shut up and pay up. Others will quote Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.’s dissent in the 1927 case of Compañía General de Tabacos de Filipinas v. Collector of Internal Revenue. “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society,” he wrote.

Except, they are not. Taxes are blunt instruments used by the ruling elite to harass and manipulate the people while enriching themselves and their cronies.

Is that harsh? Well, maybe… But it’s not a bad summary of what God told Samuel when the prophet relayed to the Almighty that His chosen people wanted a human king to lord over them. God, of course, wanted them to govern themselves under His law.

In 1 Samuel 8, we find God’s warning: The king, we are told,

“will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves.”

Taxes are the “tithe” progressives impose on everyone in the name of their secular religion. This is why study after study shows progressives are not actually charitable with their own money; they conflate the imposition of taxes with actual charity.

Yes, yes, render unto Caesar… Except, in our republic the law is king and the citizens – not the politicians – are the sovereigns. As citizens, we have allowed a 10-million-word tax code to be imposed upon us for the same bad and sinful reasons the people of Israel chose a king over God three millennia ago.

Modern taxation is not the price of civilized society; it is the cost of betraying our heritage of self-governance. If we want to reduce our tax burden, we must increase our civic activism.

Michael Quinn Sullivan

Michael Quinn Sullivan is the publisher of Texas Scorecard. He is a native Texan, a graduate of Texas A&M, and an Eagle Scout. Previously, he has worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine contributor, Capitol Hill staffer, and think tank vice president. Michael and his wife have three adult children, a son-in-law, and a dog. Michael is the author of three books, including "Reflections on Life and Liberty."