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Jersey’s tax riots

Zacchaeus [a rich chief tax collector, Jericho, AD 33] stood and said to the Lord [Jesus Christ], “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.         Luke 19: 8-10


It seems that no one really knows the reasons behind the riots in London and other cities during the past few days. But there is a suspicion that one part of it has been the desire to loot, to take shop goods like clothing and electronics and electrics in order to restore a perceived imbalance between “me” and others.


Those perceived imbalances lead to riots. The overthrow of so many European monarchies in past centuries often had to do with flagrant wealth being displayed to those without even the basics.  That’s the stuff of injustice.


And the perceived injustices are even more justifiably redressed by lawless force when the disadvantaged perceive that those with power over them have themselves been lawless. Maybe the Parliamentary expenses scandal has brought the UK’s MP lawmakers into such disrepute that seriously disadvantaged persons have begun (wrongly) to feel that a little injustice in their favour (like looting) is AOK?


Jersey history has seen riots because of injustice, especially in the 1700s.


For a time (well before Jersey Income Tax was introduced) tithes (effectively proportionate taxes) were paid to the King. The Receiver of the King’s revenues adopted the bad system of letting out tithe collection to speculators in each Parish who would pay the Receiver a lump sum at the outset and as a one-off payment for that year.


These tithe collectors would then collect the actual tithes from other sub-collectors in his Parish and keep anything over for himself as his remuneration for doing the job. So did the sub-collectors. Not a good idea. This was Jersey AD 1731.


But look at the words in bold above from Jericho AD 33. The same system prevailed then – only worse from the perspective of the tithe-payers, because Zacchaeus collected taxes for the hated Romans, not for the King.


At St Ouen in 1731 the tithe collector’s property was damaged and his horse and oxen killed.  At St Brelade that year a mob of 200 broke into houses and tore-up the tithe documents of the tithe sub-collectors.


What about in AD33 above? No mob. No force. No riot. But this rich, chief tax collector (this lawless tax collector?) immediately gave half of his wealth to the poor and also restored anything taken from anyone by fraud plus three times what he had so taken.


What changed him? A very, very simple thing. Jesus, on meeting him in Jericho, had asked him, out of the blue as it were, if he could stay at his house that day.....


That’s all. Nothing more. No riots.


Jesus said, “Today, salvation has come to this house.” Salvation? What was Zacchaeus saved from? From himself, of course! He was chained, bound, imprisoned to his wealth and his own interests, to his “me”.


Jesus added, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Lost? Lost to the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of the Son of Man. Lost to the realm of Almighty God the Creator and Giver and of His Son, the self-giving one who died to save others. Lost by choosing to fight all his days to make money for himself alone – rather than, like His Creator and Redeemer to give and to bless.


Jesus came to seek and save the lost? Yes indeed. By taking upon himself the consequences of all the evils of all his enemies who would turn to him. By dying under that. And by rising from the dead with that self-giving work accomplished. You see, Zacchaeus had been forgiven and he knew it.

‘'Somehow, for all the wondrous glimpses of ‘goodness’ I see in society, there remains the unmistakable stain of selfishness, violence and greed.' (John Dickson, Speaker and Author)
‘I remember this, that everything looked new to me .... the fields, the cattle, the trees. I was like a new man in a new world.’ (Billy Bray, Cornish preacher, 1794-1868)
Richard Syvret

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