If you live in the United States, then you’re surely aware that tax season is upon us. (I’ve spent many hours working on our paperwork over the past few weeks, so I’m extremely aware of it.) I enjoy living in a country with clean water, local/state/national parks, paved roads and dedicated public servants who arrive to rescue you from fire and other assorted disasters in your time of need. I also admit that I really like it when I flip the switch and the lights come on. I’m aware that paying our taxes helps provide those amenities and many more besides, so I understand the need for taxes…at least some of them. I’d have to be honest, however, and tell you that there are a whole lot of them that I don’t understand. I suspect that I’m not the only one.
About this time every year, I start thinking about the following Scripture:
“Then Jesus told them, “Give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were amazed at Him.” Mark 12:17 (HCSB, 2009)
This verse reminds me that–as much as I hate filling out all of these forms and keeping up with the minutiae of running a small business–I’m still called to do those things honestly and with integrity in order to follow my God and honor Him in the process. A lot of people might be surprised by that statement, but it seems to be a pretty straight-forward idea to me. You see, I know (as did Jesus) that those who were on the scene to question Him weren’t there because they were truly interested in what He thought about taxes so much as they hoped to rattle Him enough so that He would make a mistake they could use to get rid of Him in an easier (more politically correct) way. It didn’t happen.
His answer is so simple that they can’t make a big deal of it–accurate in every way–leaving them nowhere to go. I think the part I like best about it is that He also uses the opportunity to do a little teaching…a little reminding them of who they are…of WHOSE they are.
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Genesis 1:26 (HCSB, 2009)
That is the lesson: We are each made in the image of Almighty God. Because that is so, we should act like it. Every part of our lives (yes, even tax prep!) should reflect that knowledge and, although we may have to accept the rule of laws we disagree with in of our society, our larger purpose is to give OURSELVES back to God for His use. Money is not the most important commodity here. We are.
The Apostle Paul reinforced the teaching for being a law-abiding citizen when he wrote the following:
“Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.” Romans 13:7 (HCSB, 2009)
Peter brings it down to an even even more human level: “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” 1 Peter 2:17
I like it when things are clearly stated. It makes life simpler and leaves less room for doubt…and gives us more time for doing the things that really count.
Taxes are a part of life that we’ll just have to keep dealing with…and, as I fight my way through the mounds of paperwork and red tape for small businesses, I’ll be trying to remember to give the honor and respect due to those who’re in charge at present…because they’re made in the image of God just like me…even when they make laws and taxes with which I don’t agree.
“It was as true…as taxes is. And nothing’s truer than them.” ~ Mr. Barkis (from David Copperfield written by Charles Dickens, 1850) (smile)