The men of Issachar, a small tribe of Israel, had a unique role in Israeli society.
In 1 Chronicles, we are told that two hundred leaders of Issachar understood the times and seasons the nation was facing and knew what to do.
“from Issachar, men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do—200 chiefs, with all their relatives under their command;” (1 Chronicles 12:32 NIV)
There is some debate on what this was actually referring to.
But most believe the verse was stating that these leaders had an astute awareness of the political climate, and understood what decisions Israel needed to make.
They came to this conclusion, because this description of the men of Issachar was included in a listing of those in Israel who were standing with David as the future king of Israel during the dark days when King Saul was still on the throne and was pursing David in an effort to assassinate him.
Aside from the men of Issachar, the list included men from several tribes who had thrown their support behind David, including 6,800 armed men from Judah and 4,900 armed men from Levi and 7,900 hundred men from the tribe of Simeon (1 Chronicles 12:23-40).
It suggested there was a real possibility of civil war, but David refused to provoke a confrontation with King Saul trusting that God would take care of the situation.
Though few in numbers, Issachar’s support of David was invaluable because of the advice they provided in those dark, political times.
And I believe we need men and women today with a similar Issachar anointing or understanding of the political climate to help the church navigate the rapid changes taking place in our society.
There have been several interesting political and cultural developments in Canada recently, that I believe may be a sign of what is to come.
In most Western democracies, churches receive certain financial benefits. In Canada, as an example, churches don’t pay property taxes in their local communities. They are also not required to pay corporate income taxes, and those making donations to the church can claim it as a charitable deduction on their income tax.
But what would happen if these benefits were removed. In some instances, the loss of charitable status could even result in the state taking over any properties owned by the churches.
In an article in the National Post, a major Canadian newspaper, author Colby Cash talked about what he described is a trial balloon on whether people would support churches being required to pay property taxes.
And those proposing this idea are taking advantage of a recent scandal in Canada to do it.
In recent weeks, churches across Canada have been targeted with fires and vandalism after the discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves at Indian Residential Schools across Canada run largely by the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.
In response to this, Kenny Bell, the mayor of Iqaluit, the capital city of the Northern Territory of Nunavut, stated he was introducing a proposal at an upcoming council meeting to require churches in his community to pay property taxes.
He is doing this as a show of support for the indigenous community.
Bell insisted that this motion to tax all churches, including Baptist and Pentecostal, for the treatment of children in largely Roman Catholic run residential schools was not an act of revenge.
In an interview with the Nunatsqiaq News, Bell said:
“We’re not retaliating against [churches]; they killed literally thousands of children.”
However, Cash is not convinced, writing, “one can’t help feeling that this semicolon may conceal a desire to, in fact, retaliate against churches.”
Cash also noted a cultural shift taking place, particularly on social media:
Most Indigenous spokesmen have denounced the rash of church fires, but it’s not hard to find white progressives celebrating them on social media. If you try posting something like “Hey, arson is bad, you guys,” you’ll probably flush some out in a few seconds.
So what would happen, if churches were suddenly required to pay property taxes?
There have also been increasing calls in Canada and the US by those on the political left to end the charitable and tax-exempt status for churches.
In an article for The Federalist, Denny Burk reported on a New York Times column written a few years back, where the writer called for an end to the tax-exempt status for American churches, if they don’t support such things as gay marriage.
Mark Oppenheimer of The New York Times is now calling for the government to remove tax-exempt status from churches. After I posted a link to his article on Facebook, a pastor friend commented: “I’m not sure our small church could survive.” That, my friends, is the point. And Oppenheimer knows it.
Legal gay marriage is not the endgame for the gay-rights movement. It never was. Moral approval is the endgame. The agenda is not tolerance for different beliefs and lifestyles. The agenda is a demand that everyone get on board with the moral revolution or be punished. That means if you or your church won’t get with the program, then the revolutionaries will endeavor to close you down.
In his article, Burk quoted a pastor of a small church who stated that removing its tax-exempt status would mark the end of his church.
I don’t necessarily agree with the pastor, but do agree it will mark the end of the church as we know it, because in our modern society, we have confused the church with buildings.
The church is the people and this is clearly seen in the letters that the Apostle Paul wrote where he greeted the church that met in the homes of Nympha (Colossians 4:15) and Philemon (Philemon verses 1-2).
If the Book of Acts is any indication, the church does not need fancy cathedrals and multi-million dollar buildings to survive, as the early church seemed to thrive without them.
But, I am concerned changes are coming for the church in the not to distant future, and we need God to raise up those with an understanding of the times and seasons to prepare the church for that looming crossroad.