April 15 is the deadline for Americans who have received income from any source in the prior year to pay any taxes due on that income. Needless to say, it is not the favorite time of year for most people. Generally there is a certain amount of hullaballoo about the whole thing. People complain about how much is taken from their wages, how people who don’t work still get help from the government, that they never personally agreed to the taxation, that people should be responsible for taking care of themselves, that some other generation is not doing its share or being appropriately responsible finacially, and so forth. The list of complaints goes on and on.
I’d like to offer a quick thought about the whole issue of taxation.
I seem to recall stories from our Judeo-Christian tradition in which the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” arise in one form or another. Again and again, the response from God has been, “Yes, you are.”
From the earliest days of our tradition, through the Law and the prophets, to the days of Jesus and the early Church and up to the present day, we hear again and again, “We are all in this together.” We are to look out for each other. Yes, we are to do our best to take care of ourselves and those personally entrusted to us (spouses, parents, children, siblings), but we are also to take care of the widows and orphans among us (i.e., those who don’t have family or identity within the society). That means we are responsible for those who can’t work, even if they seem able-bodied, those who may not have proper legal documents allowing them to be here but who have had the misfortune to get sick or injured, those whose parents can’t earn enough to buy food, clothing, books, or health care for them, those elderly who have no children with whom they can live or who could afford to pay for shelter, food, and medical care for them, those for whom there is no job. Again, the list goes on and on.
We also share responsibility to pay the cost of keeping our communities safe, our roads, buildings and bridges safe, our educational systems safe and effective, our environment healthy, and those whose work is to serve the larger community paid a decent living wage, with access to health care and time off to renew their spirits and raise their families.
Some of us have been blessed with more resources. Some of us receive money for work done by others (parents, grandparents, etc.). Some have investments that provide income without the necessity of doing any physical or mental labor. Some have barely enough income to keep simple shelter overhead and food on the table. Some have enough for a comfortable lifestyle, without much left for the frills.
Whoever we are, whatever our circumstances, we are all responsible for each other. We’re all in this together.
So let’s pray for the grace to be willing to give of what we have. Some will receive more than they have paid in taxes as a refund this year. Believe me, when that happens to an ordinary family, they really need the money. They haven’t had a great year financially. It’s truly a gift from God to have enough income to have to pay taxes. There are so many deductions from taxable income, so many credits to help families and business owners, that if we still owe some tax, generally speaking, we have been blessed. It doesn’t always feel that way, but in the big picture, we have been blessed.
So today, as we send in our checks and our forms, let’s ask a blessing for ourselves and each other, a blessing for our country and our world, and a word of thanks to the Lord for the rich blessings of opportunity, environment and loving community that we have received.Read More