“Pastor, I’m feeling overwhelmed by the expectation to pay black tax. My extended family needs financial support, but how much is enough? Can you give me a biblical perspective on this?” #AskAnAfricanPastor
One of the beautiful things about African culture is that it is communal.
African Culture Is Communal
“One of the beautiful things about African culture is that it is a communal culture, meaning communities share things – or families share things – in a communal way. Sharing becomes part of life together. And it is not uncommon when you find that parents sometimes rely on their children to assist them and to help them. Or vice versa. Sometimes parents come in and help children.
But Black Tax Can Become Unhealthy
But it becomes unhealthy – obviously – when it is just one way. Where sometimes parents say, “Look, I now have children…” now your children become like an insurance for you – they become like a bank. And things like that. So I think that’s probably unhealthy.
It’s unhealthy if your children become like an insurance for you – they become like a bank.
Yet, scripture is very clear in terms of looking and caring and looking after your siblings and your family. But first of all it starts, what scripture says is, it starts first with your immediate family.
Now, if I am married, for example, my first responsibility is to my family – it is to my unit. And then I think this could almost run counter-culture to what the African culture is on about. So this is where now you need to weigh in and say, “What is it that is biblical that I need to follow? What is it that is cultural that I need to discard when it comes to that?”
What Is Black Tax?
And so the pressure that often comes it is now placed into what is known today as the Black Tax. Now the Black Tax and the way it’s translated today simply means that you know when you find yourself where – and particularly let’s say for example you are an older child or you are a working child in the family – and you still have younger siblings and your parents are sometimes, say they are older, they are retired. You now have a responsibility to take care of them while at the same time you have your family to look after.
If I am married, my first responsibility is to my family unit.
So in a sense you find yourself now being taxed in that way in terms of saying, “Well look, I need to spend money here in my family. But also I need to spend money to my extended family”. That is hard. And very difficult especially in the economic climate that we live in. And this makes life very hard and harsh for the newly weds or even for the couple that is trying also to make means in their own way.
Biblical Guidance On Black Tax
Now, the big question that comes in is then, how does one really work out all of these things? By not helping, does it mean that you are not a Christian? It is not loving and caring? And as I said earlier on – and if you look into scripture – it is very important to listen to what the Bible says. Because the Bible says that if you yourself you can’t take care of your very own family, then the Bible says that you must just be treated like a heathen (1 Timothy 5:8).
By not helping, does it mean that you are not a Christian?
So I would say the starting point first of all is to look after your family first. There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is more biblical.
How To Help Others Sustainably
The analogy that I use often is like, say when you are flying – when you are in an aeroplane – they normally make an announcement to help you in an event that you were to lose, you know, cabin air, the mask will drop and they often say that the first thing you do – let’s say that you have children next to you or other people who can’t help themselves – they often say, you take the mask and put it to yourself first, in order for you to be able to help others.
So I think that analogy for me is helpful in a sense that you start first by looking at your family and after that you will be able then to help others. So your family is going to be very important. Start first by being responsible enough so that whatever help that may come out of that – that you may want to then use to help the others – may come as a result of you having helped us.
Helping Others As A Couple
Make sure that both of you agree as a couple.
But I think the other important thing is in this make sure that both of you agree as a couple. You know the problem that often happens is that it becomes one-sided. One family gets to be helped and the other family is not being helped. So it is very important for you in your budgeting and in your apportioning of resources that you have but both of you seek to help the families within your means and with what you are able to do.
So I think that is the only way that is going to be helpful in order for you to mitigate the Black Tax and also helping others.”