Lately, Gates has invoked the Bible to argue for the estate tax. "This notion that there's a God-given right to pass everything on to your kids, that's not in the commandments I've read," he recently said.
Actually, it is in the Bible. Proverbs 13:22 says, "A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children." Numbers 36:8 says, "Every one of the people of Israel may possess the inheritance of his fathers." Ezekiel 46:18 says that the state has no right to interfere: "The prince shall not take any of the inheritance of the people, thrusting them out of their property."
However, the most emphatic repudiation of wealth redistribution appears in Luke 12:13, in which Jesus acknowledges the value of wealthy people to society as a whole: "The land of a rich man brought forth plentifully." Echoing Ezekiel, he says, "Man, who made me a judge or divider over you?" In other words, it is up to each individual to decide how to distribute his wealth -- in life or at death -- not the state. Taking the wealth of rich men by force is neither moral nor efficient.
And one out of the multitude said to him, "Master, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." And Jesus said to him, "Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?" And then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness; for the life of any man does not consist in the abundance of those things which he possesseth." And Jesus spoke a parable to them, saying, "The field of a certain rich man yielded an abundant produce. And the rich man thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do? for I have no place in which I can collect my fruits.' And the rich man said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns, and will build larger ones, and there I will collect all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, thou hast many goods laid up for many, years: take thine ease, eat, drink, and enjoy thyself."' But God said to the rich man, 'Fool, this night they shall demand thy soul from thee; and as to the things which thou hast provided, to whom shall they go?' So is he that layeth up for himself: and is not rich toward God."