Monday, April 14, 2014

Taxes: The Downside of Being Smarter than God

If you don’t believe Uncle Sam is smarter than God, just ask him.
The Bible, at least as most people read it, dates the beginning of life on earth at a few thousand years ago. Uncle Sam knows better. The Bible deals with theft through restitution. Uncle Sam knows better and puts thieves in cages. God tells us to care for the poor through voluntary actions. Uncle Sam in his superior knowledge (and morals, don’t forget) has created agencies to take care of every concern the poor might have: health, education, food, entertainment–you name it.
How nice to be free from all those nasty strictures in the Old Testament: resting on Saturday, not wearing mixed fabrics, not eating pigs, having sex only with one’s spouse, and that only for the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle.
And what a small price we pay: Uncle Sam and his state and local cohorts take close to forty percent of our income, plus we need dozens of hours to keep track of every dollar. For family this year that meant we had to keep track down to the .002% (that’s two-thousandths of a percent or two one-hundred-thousandths) of our income. If I had been a millionaire, I would have needed to account for the millionth part of my income. What fun!
Does it bother you that other people consider it their business to force you to account for every dollar you handle and reserve the right to go through your records?
The Mosaic system told the people to keep track of the tenth part of their goods. There’s debate whether they could keep nine-tenths or seven-tenths or whether the amount changed year by year, but in the end there was no IRS coming through to check on them. God commanded his people to be truthful with him and open handed with the poor. If they chose to challenge him, “‘Vengeance is mine,’ says the Lord, ‘I will repay.’”
Is that really worse than IRS agents whose job is to make those they audit look as bad as possible? (Let me know if you can name anyone whose audit showed they had given too much money to the IRS.)
If you’re still resentful of Uncle Sam’s prying into your private life so he can extract as much wealth as he can before you revolt, consider the possibility that God promises his people a society in which people deal honestly and generously with their neighbors because they are convinced from the inside out that that’s the best way to live. Consider the possibility that such a society might be something to hold out to unbelievers as a city on a hill, a light in a dark place, rest for the weary, a serious reason to consider the claims of Christ.
Then again, if the tax man is just Jesus’ boots on the ground, maybe not.

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