Benjamin Franklin is the one who coined the phrase, "The only two certainties in life are death and taxes." Later, Will Rogers would play off that statement and say, "The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets." Death and taxes do go together, I guess. There are some among us who die a little every April 15 when we have to pay our taxes. Sure, some get refunds, even large refunds. Unfortunately, that's rarely me. A friend of mine once told me that there are two checks he enjoys writing the most: his tithe check to the church and his tax check to the government. Well, I agree with half of his statement. I enjoy writing checks to the church. No one forces me to write them. No one threatens me if I don't. I write tithe and offering checks for the sheer joy of participating in a financial way in the church and the kingdom of God. The Bible says, "God loves hilarious givers." Hey, I can laugh all the way to the offering plate. And the larger the check the louder my laugh.
But I reach for a box of Kleenex when I write my tax check. I don't chuckle when I say to myself, "After paying you thousands of dollars already, you still demand more?" No laughter here; get out the crying towel instead. I think I could enjoy writing that tax check if it wasn't so outrageously high, if I didn't feel a gun in my ribs and hear a voice saying, "Gimme your dough." Every April 15th I'm reminded of what some joker calls "the new simplified tax form: line 1: What did you make? Line 2: Send it in." Don't get me wrong: I love being American and living in America. I don't mind paying my share of the rent to live in this country. But, and you may feel the same, it seems like I pay more than my share of the rent. Thankfully, God provides for me. I have a good job. I get paid more than I'm worth. And when I have to write that tax check, the money is there to do it. But I'd be lying if I didn't say I resent paying as much as I am required to pay, and that's why I can't join my friend in kicking up his heels with glee every time he pays his taxes.
Maybe every April 15, before I write my check, I should go fishing. Matthew tells a story about the religious tax-collectors approaching Peter and asking him if Jesus pays the temple tax—which, of course, implies that Jesus hadn't paid it yet. The temple tax was a small tax Jews were required to pay by religious law for the upkeep of the temple. This was not a Roman tax. Jews had to pay that too. So Peter asked Jesus about it, and Jesus answered Peter's question with a question: "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or others?"
Peter said, "From others."
And Jesus replied, "Then the sons are free. But since we don't want to offend, let's pay the tax." But instead of writing a check or pulling some coins out of his pocket, Jesus said to Peter, "Go down to the sea, throw in a line, take the first fish you catch, and open its mouth. When you do, you'll find a silver coin. Take that coin and go pay the tax for the both of us."
There's a lesson here that has nothing to do with taxes. This is one more way that Jesus is reminding Peter that the times they-are-a-changing. In Jesus, the old order is gone and a new order has come. Those in Christ are sons of the Father and the Father isn't about to charge them tax to be in His house. I understand the lesson.
But today is tax day, and I sure wouldn't mind reeling in a fish that had my tax payment in its mouth. How about you?
Oh well, one day that other certainty along with taxes—death—is going to take me out of this world. And even though the government will still go for a chunk of whatever I leave behind, I'll be heading to the Father's House. And in that place beyond time there will be no April 15 and there will be no taxes. Because of what Jesus did for us in paying our sin "tax" on the cross, God is going to let all those who love and follow Jesus live in His house for free. That's not just a good deal; that's good news. And who can't use a little good news on tax day? Heck, I'm feeling better already. Happy Tax Day, everyone.