Are you ready for another super-confusing section where Debi tries once again to paint a line between when you can disobey your husband and when you must obey, but only succeeds in making things more confusing? Well buckle up, because that’s where we’re headed!
Dear Mrs. Pearl,
I have tried very hard to obey God and my husband, but I am afraid I will end up in jail if I keep helping him. He makes me stand “watch” at truck stops, while he breaks into semi-tractor trailer trucks parked at the stops. How can I honor him and still refuse what he expects?
Does this actually work? Maybe at night?
But anyway, here’s how Debi responds:
We told her to report his crime to the law, to assist them in catching him in the act. She did, and he is in jail. She goes to visit him and brings him goodies and talks of the day when he can be back with the family. He knows he was wrong. He didn’t need a dictionary to spell it out. If your husband tells you to break the law of God and man, and you know you will go to jail or others will be hurt, then you can respectfully refuse to comply, for God did not grant the husband unregulated power.
It’s worth noting that Debi tells Betty not only to refuse to participate in her husband’s thievery, but to actually report him to the law and help get him caught. Still, once again Debi is using a rather extreme example. What about the smaller things? How much breaking the law is too much, and how much do you turn a blind eye to? And besides, who determines what qualifies as breaking the law?
In what follows, Debi does and does not answer my questions here.
(As a side note, I’m not so sure that Betty’s jailed husband would be so happy to see her, knowing that she was the one who turned him in and sent him to jail in the first place. But that’s not terribly relevant.)
False Tax Returns
We have many letters from wives who tell us that their husband files false income tax returns, and she refuses to sign it with him, making him very angry. The wife sticks to her guns and takes the higher ground. When we question her and get the details, in most cases, the wife is upset because her husband did not report a little cash money that he made cutting grass or fixing several automobiles for friends and neighbors. We have never had a woman write whose husband was committing major fraud. It has been petty things that stick in her craw. She gives careful attention to every detail and reminds him of the few things that he conveniently forgot to mention when declaring his in come for the year. This puts great stress on the marriage. The husband senses that there is more to this than her “religious convictions.” He feels that she is using this opportunity to reject him, to take the reins in her own hands, and he resents it far more than any loss of revenue.
If your husband breaks the law, you should turn him in . . . but women concerned about their husbands lying on their tax returns are totally overreacting. In fact, they’re more than overreacting—they are rejecting their husbands and putting stress on their marriages. (And turning your husband in to the police for stealing things out of tractor trailer trucks doesn’t put stress on your marriage?)
In most cases, we are dealing with a man who would never steal. When he reads the Bible, the passage about taxes that stands out to him is the statement Jesus made when the tax collector came looking for him and his disciples. Jesus said in regard to taxes, “Then are the children free” (Matthew 18:26). that is, they are free from paying taxes to a government that is not representative. However, for testimony sake, he paid the taxes. Many men feel no moral obligation to stimulate their memories when it comes to “voluntarily” contributing to a tax system that is illegal thievery. They do not feel any duty before God to contribute money to support abortions, the homosexual agenda in public schools, family-planning programs, the distribution of condoms to children, needles to dope addicts, support of the so-called arts, and so-called public radio with its socialist agenda. We are not advocating this position or justifying any dishonesty, but it helps a wife to understand a man’s perspective.
We are dealing with a man who would never steal . . . but is refusing to pay his taxes based on his interpretation of various Bible verses?
It took me a while to look up the verse Debi mentions because she has the chapter wrong—it’s Matthew 17:26. Here is the passage in question:
The Temple Tax
Matthew 17:24-27 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
That Debi would mention this particular passage is odd given that there’s a much more well-known passage on taxes in the same book:
Paying Taxes to Caesar
Matthew 22:15-22 Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk.And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men.Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites? Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Caesar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s. When they had heard these words, they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.
Oh, and then there’s also this passage:
Obey Your Government Rulers
Romans 13: 1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. 2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: 4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. 5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. 6 For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.
God does not appoint a wife to be her husband’s conscience. A wife has no write to make judgements concerning the way he interprets his compliance. However, she does have a duty to her own conscience. If she is required to sign her name to a document that declares, “This is how much we made in income, and not a penny more,” then she has a duty to God and herself tot ell the truth as she knows it. Furthermore, when you sign a tax for, you do so on penalty of perjury. Yet, from reading thousands of letters on this subject, we have come to the conclusion that IRS issues seem to be a convenient way for a wife to be her husband’s conscience and still maintain her feeling of being a virtuous woman. She will have her day in court in front of the SUPREME JUDGE, who will judge the true intents of the heart.
You are not your husband’s conscience—but you have a duty to your own conscience—but most women who object to their husbands fibbing on their taxes are simply using it as a way to control their husbands. So, I guess this means a woman who objects to her husband fibbing on his taxes should take a step back and evaluate whether signing it is truly a conscience issue for her, or whether she’s simply using this as a tool to control her husband?
But there’s something else that’s bothering me here too. If a woman is not to be her husband’s conscience or make judgements about how he interprets the law, why did she tell Betty to turn her husband in to the police? Was it only because her husband was asking her to serve as a lookout? But in that case, shouldn’t Debi’s advice be for her to decline serving as lookout, but refrain from being her husband’s conscience?
It seems likely that Debi puts fibbing on your taxes in a different category from stealing from a tractor trailer truck. But then where is the line, in Debi’s world? When do we move from “God does not appoint a wife to be her husband’s conscience” to “we told her to report his crime to the law”? Where do we go from refusing to participate in a crime to reporting that crime?
As a Christian you have a desire and a duty to be honest in all things, but you must honor your husband as you do so. So, if you cannot sign your name to a document that would make you a liar, you must refuse to do so with grace and humility. There may be other ways to deal with it. Perhaps you could file separate tax returns, whereby you wouldn’t be required to sign his returns, and then you wouldn’t be involved in how he conducts his business.
I’m pretty sure you can’t file separate tax returns if one partner does not have an income, and Debi is writing primarily to women who are stay-at-home mothers with no income, so her suggestion here isn’t as helpful as she seems to think.
That’s the end of this bit, and I find I finish it as confused as I started it. What I’m getting is that women are not obligated to participate with their husbands in breaking the law or violating their own consciences. I’m less clear on the bit about reporting husbands who break the law. And besides, isn’t it sometimes a crime not to report a crime?
Perhaps we should pause and be thankful for what Debi could have said and didn’t. She could have said that if women are properly submissive, God will never put them in a situation where they have to choose between obeying their husbands and obeying the law. She also could have said that women are responsible only for obeying their husbands, and that God will overlook any crime they commit while simply obeying their husbands. Yes, there are Christian self-help books that argue both of these.