A Fair Look at ‘Fair’

Posted on August 8, 2011. Filed under: Culture, Economics, Government, In the News, Money | Tags: , , , , , , , |


Taxes (Photo credit: Tax Credits)

What is ‘fair’? As the deadline approaches for Democratic and Republican leaders to pick members to serve on the “Debt Super Committee” (no super heroes have been appointed yet, I checked), I’ve heard both parties toss this word around rather cavalierly. Democrats are calling for the ‘rich to pay their fair share’; after all they can afford to pay more. Republicans argue raising taxes on the rich would not be ‘fair’ in a recession. But what is ‘fair’?

Depending on your Bible’s translation, the word ‘fair’ occurs fairly often (somewhere around 200 times), so it’s clear God feels strongly about the concept of ‘fairness.’  I read through a few dozen of these verses looking for some insight on something that united all these verses.  In the prologue to Proverbs, Solomon claims his book is for (among other things) “acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair” (Prov 1:3). According to my spiffy Bible commentary, the Hebrew word for ‘fair’ here is ‘mesarim,’ which comes from the root word meaning ‘upright,’ ‘even,’ and emphasizes impartiality.

Impartial. This is what I found was the common theme in scripture’s description of fairness. Makes sense. We know that God is ‘fair’ in instituting His justice. He does not care if you are rich, poor, black, white or even if you’re from Jersey – there is no divine favoritism. We all fall short (Rom 2&3) and it is only through grace that we are saved. Yet, He calls on His people to be ‘fair’ to one another. Solomon’s prologue suggests this is going to involve discipline, that our sinful nature will distort His divine concept of justice. As Christians, we need to be aware of these impediments to fairness.

Who can argue that our tax structure is impartial? Though estimates vary for obvious reasons, some reports claim that tax evasion to overseas markets ‘costs’the IRS $100 billion annually. Don’t you wish you could evade the IRS? Those sneaky rich. But wait, the ‘poor’ don’t make out too shabby either. Currently, the top 10% of income earners pay 70% of all income taxes, while the bottom 50% pay less than 3%. Biblically, neither of these situations are fair. “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great” (Lev 19:15).  While most of us can recognize the injustice associated with those in power evading laws the rest of us must comply with, the soft spots in our hearts want to help the poor. But this structure is not impartial and therefore, not fair. Not to worry; God has a system for helping the poor, which I can discuss more later, but I don’t think this is what He had in mind…

On to the other major side of the tax revenue: corporate taxes. Funny how companies like General Electric contribute to so many campaigns and hire hundreds of lobbyist also legally avoid paying any corporate taxes. I don’t think the Lord would look favorably on this kind of behavior: “Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous” (Deut 16:19). In my opinion, a bribe is still a bribe, even if it is done publicly through campaign contributions. These contributions create a legal and tax structure based on favoritism where the State’s friends play by different rules than the rest of America’s businesses.

So, should the rich pay more, their ‘fair share’? It seems with the current tax code, the answer is yes and no. Yes, tax reform is needed to ensure all businesses are treated impartially, which means getting rid of tax exemptions for Big Oil and Big Corn alike.  But no, on the individual level it appears our concept of fair is skewed to ‘show partiality to the poor’ which is not Biblically fair.

Perhaps it’s time we look to a new way of collecting government revenue. Perhaps we need a Fair Tax, in every sense of the word. More on this later.


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4 Responses to “A Fair Look at ‘Fair’”

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I find your blog narcissistic and pedantic.

Juh-kuh-lawl. I really enjoyed reading this actually. I intellectually appreciate your ability to take what is written in the Bible, and rather than “Bible-thumping” or blindly quoting, your interpret it in a modern sense, all while incorporating it into your political ideals. I also appreciate your unbiased viewpoint – stating what is there and not trying to skew it to prove your point. I look forward to reading more from you 🙂


Thanks, Dan. I do have to correct one thing though – I do not incorporate my political ideals into my faith. It’s quite the other way around. My faith molds and guides my political ideals (and any other). Glad you enjoyed

[…] while redistributing it to those loyal to the king (1 Sam 8:11-17). In short, enslave them (see “A Fair Look at Fair”). Remember, that tenth belonged God. God was telling the Jews the king was going to replace […]

[…] while redistributing it to those loyal to the king (1 Sam 8:11-17). In short, enslave them (see “A Fair Look at Fair”). Remember, that tenth belonged God. God was telling the Jews the king was going to replace […]

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