January 4, 1937
“Elmer A. Benson takes office as the state’s 24th governor.” *
“He was elected in 1936 as Minnesota’s second Farmer-Labor Party governor with over 58 percent of the vote. He was defeated only two years later by an even larger margin. An outspoken champion of Minnesota’s workers and family farmers, Benson lacked the political gifts of his charismatic predecessor, Floyd B. Olson. However, many of his proposals—at first considered radical—became law in the decades that followed.”**
“Although the 1937 Legislature had given Benson–an early Socialist sympathizer–little of what he sought, many of his proposals became law during the 40 years that followed–property tax relief for homesteads; higher income tax rates for high-income individuals and corporations; mandatory workers’ compensation coverage for employees; a state Civil Service system; expanded state aid for schools, financed by income taxes; party designation for legislators.”***
“Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.” Ecclesiastes 7:8 NIV
Eternal Father, today we remember Your patience, and applaud Your forbearing spirit! You allow Your children to struggle as we learn, and do not rush to our aid at the first obstacle. You are perfect in holiness, and yet kind in Your judgments.
We remember with You the governorship of Elmer A. Benson today. We see Your image in his heart to correct monopolistic powers, relieve homesteaders, and ease the burdens of farmers. We see Your image in Governor Benson’s patience and faithfulness. His most treasured goals were not accomplished in his term in office, but like so many leaders, by faith, he eventually saw them put into law. We see that he sought to build consensus in his support for unions, and to establish his Progressive ideals through the law rather than might. Will You bless the changes he initiated, and his heart to make life better for those in society that were suffering?
Will You forgive also the sins of his idealism? Where he overstepped the bounds of the Constitution and inserted the government between employee and employer relationship, will You give balance? Though he acted out his ideals in integrity, will You forgive where his actions of benevolent state government actually diminished individual choice and responsibility for ones’ decisions and actions? In Your mercy, hear our prayer.
We ask that You visit with us the utility of the progressive income tax. In one sense, those most able pay more of the costs of society, and those less able pay less costs of the state. To be more exact, those who earn more, pay a higher percentage of their income, and those who earn less pay a smaller percentage of their income. This is my question to You; if some bear more of the financial burden of society than others, will the sense of ownership and participation be increased as one pays more, and diminished as one pays less?
To take the idea further, what other arena of life do we love more as we participate less? You have said, “Where Your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) If this is true, then would not those paying a lesser percentage of their income also be investing less of their heart in Minnesota, and those who pay a higher percentage of their income be investing more of their heart in our state?
Help me explore some of the math of Your Word, Jesus. We know that the Israelites were commanded by You to bring 10% of their wealth as an offering.
“‘A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD.” Leviticus 27:30
But what of the Levites, the priestly lineage, who were not allowed to make wealth, or own property in the same sense of the rest of society?
“And the LORD instructed Moses, Speak to the Levites and say to them: ‘When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the LORD’s offering.” Numbers 18:25,26 NIV
So, this is what we can gather from these examples from your chosen people; that You claim 10% of every type of wealth and resource in the land, and that those priests whose income and inheritance is dependent on Your Sovereignty and the gifts of the people must also give back to You 10% of their income. Is this an example of a graduated tithe, which to us may be similar to a tax?
What we do see quite clearly is that giving is proportional, and flexible to the type and amount of wealth one has. Also, it is repeated frequently that no one is exempt from giving to the Sovereign of Israel, but exhorted with the command “none shall appear before me empty-handed”. Please ponder these verses below with the Lord, and see what you think.
“You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; for seven days you are to eat unleavened bread, as I commanded you, at the appointed time in the month Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. And none shall appear before Me empty-handed.” Exodus 23:15
“You shall redeem with a lamb the first offspring from a donkey; and if you do not redeem it, then you shall break its neck You shall redeem all the firstborn of your sons. None shall appear before Me empty-handed.” Exodus 34:20
“Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.”
While modern society may not relate to commands of this type from You, Good Father, we catch some of Your meaning today. The tithe You command is a parallel to our concept of taxation. Offerings were a parallel of giving beyond the tithe, or what we might think of as charity, from out of a sense of devotion, sharing a blessing, or gratitude, and not necessity or compulsion.
May we find Your way to pay the costs of our society. May the future generations of Minnesotans show respect and humility before Your wisdom in this area. May we all contribute evenly and proportionately to the resources we are allotted by You. May we be free of the greed that comes from too much, and too little. May we not allow the enemy of all to divide us through bitter root judgments of our neighbors’ lineage, rank, or profession. May we trust in Your provision more, and not demand offerings from our community that even You do not demand. May we see the other side of the coin that, perhaps, Governor Benson missed; that failing to give in proportion will also yield a proportional lack of heart commitment to our North Star state! May we all have a sense of participation, ownership, and even joy that comes from not appearing before You or our neighbors empty-handed!
“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.