Questions From Readers
● Is it possible that the present crisis in religion is due to a lack of practicality of Christianity?—U.S.A.
When considering the answer to this question, we should remember that there is a difference between the Christianity of Christendom’s churches and that of the Bible. Though one form of Christianity may be impractical, this would not mean that the other form must also be impractical.
Many people believe that practicality in religion requires active involvement in the political, social and economic issues of the day. They feel that church failure in this respect shows that Christianity is impractical.
But have not the churches of Christendom been actively involved in the affairs of the world? Indeed! In many lands the churches of Christendom have exercised considerable political influence, even to the point of dominating the ruling element. Of course, the political alignments of the church systems have often favored the rich. Nevertheless, the churches lay claim to helping the poor. Churches have built hospitals, conducted charity drives and have encouraged their members to be active participants in social reforms. While some good may have been accomplished, have such efforts resulted in the best good possible? Have these efforts really changed people’s lives, producing better husbands, wives, fathers, mothers and children? The sad fact is that often very little contrast is seen between the lives of church members and nonchurch members. Prisons are filled with people who belong to religious organizations. Does this not indicate that something other than involvement in social reforms and the like is needed?
What the churches of Christendom have done is contrary to the teachings of the founder of Christianity. Jesus Christ said of his disciples: “They are no part of the world.” (John 17:16) And the apostle John wrote: “We know we originate with God, but the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) So regardless of what seeming good may be accomplished, a Christian’s active involvement in world affairs would mean supporting a system that is disapproved by God. Such involvement can never have God’s approval and blessing, as amply demonstrated by men’s repeated failures in trying to improve the world. Men’s efforts might be compared to removing water from a sinking ship with a spoon. True, water is being removed, but the overall effort accomplishes nothing really worth while.
On the other hand, what Jesus Christ did was practical. He gave honest-hearted people every reason to change their way of life for the better. He helped them to know God as a person—his boundless love, mercy, goodness and undeserved kindness. This prompted people to want to be imitators of God.
Similarly, when people today come to recognize the rightness of God’s law and appreciate what love the Creator has shown in providing his only-begotten Son as a ransom, they are moved to bring their lives into conformity with God’s commandments. They follow through on the inspired admonition to ‘deaden their body members as respects fornication, uncleanness, sexual appetite, hurtful desire, and covetousness.’ They put away “wrath, anger, badness, abusive speech, and obscene talk.”—Col. 3:5, 8.
Is it not true that things would be quite different today if people everywhere were doing just that? What fine improvement this would bring to family life and to one’s relationship with fellow humans! Yes, true Christianity is practical in that it can produce better people. And, as evident among Jehovah’s witnesses today, true Christianity is not experiencing a crisis but is prospering—in over two hundred lands throughout the earth.
True, the churches of Christendom are facing a crisis, but not because of the impracticality of Christianity. It is because of their failing to imitate Jesus’ example to keep separate from the world. These church systems have spent valuable time and effort in trying to perpetuate a system of things that is disapproved by God. They have placed great emphasis on human wisdom and material things, to the virtual exclusion of motivating people’s hearts to live Christian lives. Hence, Christendom’s churches have nothing better to offer than does the world generally. They have ignored the only practical thing, that is, helping people to appreciate the rightness and righteousness of living in harmony with God’s Word.
● Can a Christian be expected to pay taxes to a government that engages in practices that are contrary to his beliefs?—U.S.A.
The Bible definitely shows that it is proper for Christians to pay taxes. When asked whether it was lawful to pay head tax to Caesar or not, Jesus Christ replied: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matt. 22:17, 21) The apostle Paul, in discussing submission to governmental authorities, wrote: “There is . . . compelling reason, for you people to be in subjection, not only on account of that wrath [directed against lawless persons] but also on account of your conscience. For that is why you are also paying taxes; for they are God’s public servants constantly serving this very purpose. Render to all their dues, to him who calls for the tax, the tax.”—Rom. 13:5-7.
Neither in the words of Jesus nor in those of the apostle Paul is there even a hint that the servant of God has any responsibility with reference to the use governmental authorities make of the tax money. The situation is comparable to one’s paying an electrician, a plumber or other workman for services rendered.
Governmental authorities are “God’s public servants” in the sense that Christians benefit from their services, including the handling of mail, fire protection, water supply, education, public transportation, the building and maintenance of roads and highways as well as protection by law-enforcement agencies and judicial systems. Even when governments engage in practices that are contrary to a Christian’s beliefs, he still benefits from these services.
Also, as Jesus pointed out, the money belongs to “Caesar.” This is because the governmental authority issues money and assigns a particular value to it. So when the government requires that part of the money be returned for services rendered, the Christian is under obligation to do so.
Governments that misuse their authority will be held accountable by God.—Rom. 12:19.