Thoughts on opting out of Social Security
Periodically I am asked whether it is smart for a pastor to opt out of Social Security. It is likely that all of you reading this E-idea have already crossed this bridge. However, I think it is a worthwhile topic to address, as you may be asked this question by future pastors that join your team or our MB family, and it might give you some helpful information for future reference.
According to the IRS guidelines, in order to opt out of Social Security a minister must be conscientiously opposed to public insurance. The reason I did not opt out of Social Security is that I am not “conscientiously opposed to Social Security.” I cannot make a biblical case against this form of insurance. Perhaps you can. If so, I’d love to hear from you.
In my 21 years of stewardship ministry, I have yet to meet a pastor that can opt out on the grounds given by the IRS. Everyone I’ve talked to who wants to opt out is doing so for financial reasons. According to the IRS, this is not a valid reason. Some ask me, “What are the pros and cons of opting out?” In my opinion, this is not a pros and cons decision. Matters of conscience do not fall in that camp. The same would be said of filing as a conscientious objector. I would not discuss with a young man the pros and cons of doing so. Rather, we would discuss the biblical case for filing as a CO and then determine if this decision is consistent with the young man’s conscience. I don’t know if this analogy is helpful to you, but I’ve found it so.
It’s unfortunate that some well-known Christian sources recommend opting out of Social Security for financial reasons. They are doing a disservice to the Christian community. Here are some sources I have found useful on this topic:
- Ministers Opting Out of Social Security provided by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), the world leader in establishing nonprofit Christian financial ethical standards.
- Can a minister “opt out” of Social Security? provided by GuideStone, the organization we partner with to provide the new Mennonite Brethren retirement plan.
- Is it OK to opt out of Social Security? provided by Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
I hope this information is helpful in your ministry as we serve the Lord with integrity and faithfulness.
*About the author: Jon Wiebe is president and CEO of MB Foundation. Jon is married to Ellynne and they have two sons and two wonderful daughters-in-law. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family and cattle ranching.
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