APRIL TAXES * TITHES * TREASURES
BY ROBERT DOCTER –
April 15 is just around the corner, and the tax man cometh.
Actually, paying our taxes in a free society needs to be perceived as an honor. If we hope to enshrine the values and ideals of this nation, we must be prepared to pay a fair share of the cost. Words like freedom, liberty, justice, equality are hallowed in the American lexicon of attitudes, values and beliefs. They burn with their own energy in our foundation documents, crying out for understanding and application. Buried deeply within the hearts and minds and souls of the citizenry, they light a beacon of hope for those in other lands stifled under the heel of totalitarianism.
Freedom demands responsible behavior. Liberty requires responsible choices. Justice re-minds us of consequences when we fail to adhere to society’s rules. Equality speaks of protection under the law wherein the same measure of justice is meted to all regardless of one’s station in life.
Together, those words re-mind us that our nation is built on principles first expressed within the Judeo-Christian ethic.
When members of the Jewish pharisaical tradition sought to trap him by asking if it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus made himself very clear. We have two responsibilities. We must pay our taxes to our nation–and–we must share our wealth with God.
You must determine the appropriate amount to give the government. Various tables and rules make the determination of this amount somewhat easy. There is a set time and place for this action and a clear destination for the tax. If you fail to determine this amount accurately, you face the consequences of audits and penalties or, for genuine scofflaws, even imprisonment.
The determination of the amount God expects from you is more difficult. It depends on where you place God within the financial priorities of your life. That placement becomes clear in your mind in proportion to the power of your faith in him and the extent of your love for him. There are no tables to consult, no codes to examine, no rules to follow. God leaves the “how much” question up to you.
The question of “to whom do I give” is also fraught with difficulty. We know from Old Testament equations that we need to support the primary place of our worship. This is often described as a “tithe.” But Jesus made it clear we have an additional responsibility to care for those within our world less fortunate than ourselves–the ill, the aged, the lonely, the destitute. There are people like this right here in our own land. There are even more like this in other lands whose past and present oppression leaves them ex-cluded from a membership in humanity.
In the Army, we call this kind of giving–“Self Denial.” We willingly give an amount of our income to the Army world. Disagreeing with how this is done is not an adequate excuse for non-giving. It is mystifying to realize that Salvationist giving to Self Denial efforts has declined during a period of high opulence, record employment numbers, and sizeable increases in our membership. Has our self-centeredness the opposite of self denial increased during a time of great national wealth? It seems so.
We have come to rely on increasingly larger annual contributions from headquarters’ reserves to maintain an adequate level of support for the world’s poor. Some of is this appropriate. But why the decline in soldier giving to a world in need. Could it be greed?