Every year around this time, Janet and I pull out all the income and expense reports from the previous year and start to assemble our paperwork for the accountants to put together our tax returns. It is one of the jobs that I really don’t like to do – but there is no reprieve from the chore that I have to complete each spring.
We do get a certain satisfaction from the various donations that we make every year – and it is interesting to see how our giving is affected by the different charities that seem to resonate with us as we age. And it is just as interesting to see how our corporate clients and streams of income change throughout the years as well. Of course, lately, the stock market and how investments grow and shrink has been at the forefront of almost everyone’s radar the past several years.
No matter how all these things vary from year to year, one thing is for sure. That is, the government will get it’s share. The candidates for President are all talking about their various tax plans and at least one candidate is speaking about eliminating the IRS. I don’t know how the government will ensure that the proper taxes are forthcoming from everyone, but I also don’t know if the plan has been thoroughly baked yet. It is difficult for me to believe that people in general would be faithful in their tax calculations if there wasn’t some way to collect and verify the accuracy of the returns.
Issues of balancing the budget and how all that tax money should be spent is at the center of the debates this year. The two party political system is built on a variety of foundational beliefs that are fundamentally at odds with each other when it comes to government and it’s programs. That’s a topic for another day…
Regardless of all the discussions about taxes, spending and savings, the ritual of getting ready to file taxes has become a time to look back on the events of the prior calendar year. I find myself remembering purchases and expenditures that I had forgotten about. And now that I am solidly in my sixties, I have quite a history of paying taxes and watching the fickle tastes of the American public. How different the world is from when Janet and I got married.
The verse tonight is a simple one that has to do with the separation of church and state. That seems to be such a hot topic these days. It is clear that God wants us to honor Him with our lives and to pay to the government what we owe. It really isn’t an unresolvable conflict. When confronted with the question of whether paying taxes to Caesar was correct or not, Jesus replied, in Luke 20:21-26, “So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” He saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. He said to them, “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.”
My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to treat Him with reverence and in a spirit of joy – just as we should be joyful in paying our share of what we owe to the government. My prayer is that you will get through this time of year with a happy heart and remember that it’s better to have the income and pay the taxes than to not have the income in the first place! Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…