I don’t tend to be one to wish a week away, but I’m glad this past week is over. It’s not because the weather was dreary; I can’t remember a prettier week since we’ve lived in Hohenwald. It’s not because my in-laws have been in town; I’ve been blessed with incredibly loving and enjoyable in-laws. Rather, I’m glad the week is over because tax week often brings out the worst in those trying to follow Jesus.
One of my friends complained this week about being “taxed to death,” yet he’s driving to worship this morning in a car which had a sticker price as high as the 2007 U.S. median household income ($50,233). Another friend grumbled about having to give his “life savings” to the government, yet it wasn’t too long ago he was sharing details about a relaxing vacation he had just taken.
I don’t mean to pick on these friends. As one who has been known to exaggerate on occasion, I realize they didn’t literally mean they had been taxed to death or forced to give up an entire life’s savings. Such exaggerations, however, can lead us down dangerous paths, especially when, at the same time we’re exaggerating, we aren’t being sufficiently grateful. There is nothing inherently wrong with driving a nice car or taking a relaxing vacation, but when we then complain about the Jesus-sanctioned act of paying taxes to Caesar, we come off as greedy and selfish to the watching world, something Jesus certainly didn’t sanction. Since a person working a minimum wage job 40 hours a week ranks in the top 12.22% richest people in the world, perhaps gratitude is more appropriate than griping.
Obviously some of our complaints are aimed more at the ways in which tax dollars will be spent than at the general idea of paying taxes. I think it is important to note, however, that neither Jesus nor his followers spent time whining about the Roman tax system, which no doubt was the source of funding for all kinds of things that were not congruent with Christian faith, including the executions of Jesus and many of his followers. Rather, Jesus instructed those who listened to pay to Caesar what was due Caesar. Then his disciples spent their time and energy sharing the rest of what they had in common and giving to anyone who was in need (Acts 2:44-45).
All of this makes me wonder what kind of impact we, as Jesus’ followers, might have on the world if, instead of complaining about having to pay taxes or about the appropriation of tax dollars, we actually shared the rest of what we have in common and gave to anyone in need. Who knows, it might change the world!