While Solomon in his prime might have been the wisest man in history, he made some bad choices in his later years—straying from God and ultimately undermining the kingdom his father had unified. He did so, in part, through reckless taxation.
But that recklessness extended to what he apparently taught—or failed to teach—his son and successor, Rehoboam.
Briefly, King Rehoboam was told by Jeroboam—who had been run out of the country by Solomon—that the people of the united Kingdom of Israel were suffering under a high tax burden.
King Rehoboam’s response? “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”
As you might imagine, this upset a lot of people. So, Jeroboam led the northern tribes to secede from the kingdom. Before an all-out civil war could begin, God told Rehoboam not to fight. This left Rehoboam as the king of Judah, reigning over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in Jerusalem.
Jeroboam became the king of the Kingdom of Israel, including the rest of the tribes of the Israelites.
But Jeroboam had a problem. While the politics of taxation had divided the kingdom, the people were all still of the same religion—they worshiped God at the Temple in Jerusalem.
Jeroboam was worried that the people would make their pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem and might decide to make nice with Rehoboam. He did not want to risk his newfound political power being undermined by religion.
So Jeroboam told his people they didn’t need to worry about the inconvenience of going to the temple in Jerusalem. He erected two places of worship in the cities of Bethel and Dan—specifically, to worship giant golden calves.
For the price of a tax cut, Jeroboam turned the people of God into idolatrous pagans. A short-term gain for eternal loss. He was more interested in preserving his newfound power than building up the righteousness of his population.
As citizens, we must diligently look beyond the public policies being offered and endeavor to understand the agendas of those presenting them. Just because someone tells us what we want to hear doesn’t mean they actually want what is best for us.
As a self-governing people, it is up to us to demand both tax cuts and righteousness!
We must never allow ourselves to be conned into accepting politicians’ false choices any more than we should follow them in the worship of false gods.