If it's all just a game, a big scam, then shouldn't we work to beat the system and lessen our tax burden? We certainly don't want to pay taxes right?
For me there are other factors too. Any of these setups involve taking large sums of money and investing them in the market. Personally I'm opposed to this. I am aware of the many arguments that defend market investment and I'm also aware there are people who pervert some of Christ's parables in order to defend this. God willing I will write another piece in the near future that will address some of these terrible abuses of Christ's parables.
On paper the market is one thing. It's investing in companies to promote their growth. You're part of a profit making enterprise and simply receiving a return or dividend on profits. This has an element of truth if you take your money, park it in a company and just leave it there for the long term.
In reality it doesn't work that way. Companies work to manipulate their stock's value. Speculation and market forces can create fictitious capital... yes, that's a concept given to us by Marx. We can utilize a concept without embracing the totality of his system. His criticisms were often valid. His solutions were just as bad as the problems he criticized.
Not long ago there were a series of reports on IBM and how they worked to manipulate the value of their stock. It's an interesting lesson in how the markets really work and frankly how arbitrary these values are. The whole system smacks of manipulation and deceit.
For those invested in mutual funds and other similar entities, or for that matter any fund that's managed by someone else, the behaviour is often quite literally a form of conservative gambling. By spreading out the risk the fund managers are often able to stay ahead of the game. But when you look into derivatives, credit default swaps and all the rest you're left with a bad taste in your mouth. It's hardly as simple as just investing in a company and participating in profits. That's a rather simplistic understanding of what's actually happening.
I know in terms of Capitalist orthodoxy it's all just innovation and ways of generating new income. In truth it's one large shell game. Sure a lot of people do well and make tremendous amounts of money. But many do not and there are always people who lose and are taken advantage of.
The global costs are beyond words when we look at the cost of the American financial system in terms of multi-national corporations, resource extraction, usurious loans and lawsuits, corporate raiding etc...
Not to mention destroyed lives and the toll that takes on families and thus society as a whole.
It's all done through the utilization of funds provided by middle class America, the average investor. It's all built on top of the machine that so many Americans are participating in.
I know everyone can say... well, it's not my fault. I'm just invested in this or that fund.
I guess ignorance is bliss.
I believe in a concept called the Cognizance Imperative. I believe that once we're made aware of the reality of a situation we are morally bound to act on it. As Christians self examination is a mandate. We are to examine our motives and our actions. As we are sanctified and grow in grace we continue to probe our lives and are confronted with sin. A sure sign of sanctification is one's consciousness of their wretchedness and depravity.
Those who embrace forms of Perfectionism show a decreasing understanding of God's standard of Righteousness and thus the full import of Christ's saving work and the price that was pain in securing this redemption. They are trapped in a false gospel of works righteousness and in the end denigrate the value and import of Christ's work. Trusting in themselves they slip into Pharisaism.
Living un-examined lives is not an option for Christians. Parking vast sums of money into investment schemes that we choose to be willingly ignorant of is immoral and does not eliminate culpability.
We must pay our taxes but that doesn't mean that it's right to invest wholesale in the American system... one I believe to be perhaps the most immoral the world has ever seen. Again, it's nothing new, just read Revelation 18. America is but one of many Babylon's and the Church has laboured under delusion and helped it take on the 'mystery' aspect... as one of the many False Zion's produced by the heretical vision of Christendom.
Do we just play the game like Dave Ramsey and so many of the other financial advisors seem to counsel?
Should we try and beat the system, play the game and beat it by finding all the ways to manipulate the law, find the loopholes and avoid paying tax so that we can protect what is ours and we (falsely) believe we have earned?
Obviously I'm speaking rhetorically.
What's the alternative?
We can beat the system by refusing to play the game, standing our ground and walking with integrity.
We will be poor and at the bottom of society but we will be laying up our treasures in heaven
The middle class dream values financial security and a standard of living that generates social respectability.
Please re-read the Sermon on the Mount, not to mention the epistles and even the prophets and show me where security and respectability are Christian values. Show me where these are things we should seek after or respect.
In fact the opposite is true.
Dave Ramsey and those like him teach forms of Consequentialism. This is simply a way to say the Biblical formula doesn't work in the real world and thus we don't have to follow it. It's merely an ideal. It was never meant to be actually followed.
Am I saying we can follow it perfectly? Am I saying that I'm free from anxiety about tomorrow? Of course not.
Yes, the world system is one big scam. The magnitude of it weighs heavily on me. I feel like I'm learning more every single day and as I've mentioned elsewhere when I hear Mohler and others suggest that if we just get some good Christian values into the workplace we can change America's culture, I don't know whether to laugh or cry. These children don't seem to grasp the magnitude or even the nature of the problem. They have not even begun to apprehend the level of sin. Coming from so-called Christian leaders this is more than a little disturbing.
Of course grasping this also destroys one's appreciation for and veneration of the American project. It's only a problem when you've made it into an idol and confused Nationalism with Christian piety.
Don't play the game and don't try to beat the system by beating them at their own game.
Refuse to play and thus beat the system. It makes us vulnerable but as we come to a fuller understanding of the Kingdom and what it means to walk by faith we are in fact emboldened.
Take my house and possessions but you can't hurt me. You can't break me. Christ is my Lord and I will not put my confidence in princes nor will I depend on man for help. I will not trust in riches or the promises of serpents. I would rather be poor and walk with integrity than participate in a project that exploits the poor of the earth and a system that rapes and kills in order to feed the death machine.
The Mark of the Beast is the world system. It's those who demonstrate Satanic thought and action. Instead of bearing the Seal of Christ on their thoughts and actions, the head and the hand, they embrace the world system which like all false systems is in the end Satanic.
If you don't play the game it will be as if you can't even get by. It will be as if you can't even attain to the cultural norm when it comes to the standard of living.
It's not a matter of scanning an implanted microchip at a grocery store. It's simply being able to have access to the larger society. The passage in Revelation 13 is symbolic and thus somewhat hyperbolic. There are times when it becomes more severe than others. There were times in the Middle Ages when Christians could barely survive and had to take to the forests and mountains.
In some ways that was easier. You could disappear. But we're not called to do that. We're called to be martyr-witnesses, to suffer and endure. We're called to be an Altar-Community living in the midst of the pagans. Our very presence and our non-conformity is a finger of doom pointed at them, a reminder of the coming Judgment. Our lives should be both a conviction to their conscience and a testimony to the otherworldly peace we possess and share.
If we're getting along in this world and playing the game then we need to re-think the implications of the New Testament and our calling in this life. We're not understanding what it means to be a citizen of the Kingdom and what we're called to. We're not discerning the signs of the times nor grasping the depravity of our culture and the evil nature of our financial system.