A wide spot in my imagination.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Taxes and Questions and Prayer


I'm weird, I guess, because I think they make sense. I wouldn't say I like paying taxes. In fact, I'm horrible at the actual acts of filling out the forms, doing the math. My lovely spouse does all that.

But I appreciate the things our taxes pay for: roads, health insurance for poor kids, breakfast for hungry people, mental hospitals for terribly bothered people, schools, teachers' salaries, research that tries to end horrible diseases, firefighters and other public safety workers. Those are good things. I'm glad to do my part to pay for them.

There are things I'm sad my taxes pay for. I do not like that my money buys weapons to kill other people. I don't like it that some of my tax money is frittered away and used sloppily at times.

Having had my own salary paid by tax dollars for a while in a previous job, I know that there are good, diligent, hard-working folks toiling away in our bureaucracies; and I know there are some lousy, lazy people earning tax dollars as well -- about like any workplace, I suppose.

Lately, I've been thinking about Jesus and taxes. He befriended Zaccaeus, a corrupt tax collector (which says to me we don't hurl bombs and names at people we don't like). And Jesus was accused of subverting the tax system (Luke 23:2).

Governments shouldn't abuse, exploit and over-burden everyday people, just trying to get by. And it's much easier to point that out when "Caesar" is on the throne. It's harder when "we the people" all sit together on the throne.

Governments (again, functioning as "we the people") have a covenant (by virtue of our basic humanness) to take care of each other.

So, taxes. How much is too much? How do we make sure it's spent in the right ways? What would Jesus do? I don't know, to all of the above. So, I'll sign my name to form, and pray -- pray that it's filled out correctly, and pray that the money's going to the right places.

Bread for the World offered this prayer for taxpayers to consider as we work our way through our tax forms:

Gracious God, all that we have is a gift from you, including this country in which we live. As April 15 approaches, help us see our reporting to the Internal Revenue Service as a reminder of our interdependence.

Jesus taught us to love one another as he loves us, and scripture reminds us that each is given a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7).

We remember all employers, all who are self-employed, all who labor to feed themselves and their households, and all who are unemployed and seeking work.

Loving God, Bless the people whose lives are linked with ours

We remember all who have had capital gains or losses and all who manage money, especially those who are entrusted with the savings and financial well-being of others.

Loving God, Bless the people whose lives are linked with ours

We remember all landlords, all tenants, and all who own their own homes, while we especially recall those who have no place to call home.

Loving God, Bless the people whose lives are linked with ours

We remember all who farm, all who produce food for others to eat and all who depend upon the land for their survival.

Loving God, Bless the people whose lives are linked with ours

We remember all who receive social security and other government benefits.

Loving God, Bless the people whose lives are linked with ours

We remember all students and teachers, all who pay tuition, all who have student loans, and all who devote their lives to education.

Loving God, Bless the people whose lives are linked with ours

We remember all whom our nation’s tax policy deems worthy of special credits: employers creating jobs, parents adopting children with special needs, people buying their first homes, and those raising children on low incomes.

Loving God, Bless the people whose lives are linked with ours

Bless those individuals whose lives have touched ours in ways that are now reflected on a tax return, through a filing status, deductions, credits, or alimony payments. And Lord, bless also all those who make decisions for our common good.

All this we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

From the webpage www.bread.org/April15.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Tim. Glenn and I have often thought about all the good our taxes contribute to. Living in Ecuador, we see first hand what happens when an "unstable" government (in the last 14 years, there has been a turnover in presidents an average of every 2 years) coupled with being a "third world" country, does not provide a lot for its citizens. Many roads are maintained by the people who use them; many roads are dirt (maintained often means cobblestones); small communities often don't have a water system and those who do need to be careful as their water is likely not safe to drink.

    We think the "social security system" here is likely one's family.

    The children go to school for a half day and parent's pay for their children's educations. Those parents who can't afford to send their children to school have children that don't get to learn to read and write and study their country's history and culture.

    There are laws about child labor, but where does one draw the line between when a child is playing in his parent's shop and when he is working in the shop; when he has chores and when the chores become "child labor". If there is not money to hire people that help enforce the laws, does it matter that there are laws?

    The world is not a perfect place, nor is any country that I am aware of, but I am grateful that we have been able to contribute taxes, because that means we have been employed and have made enough money to be required to contribute for the good of all.

    And for those of us who believe that God helped make the employment possible, it's a good thing to be able to pass on the love we're given to others, even in the form of taxes.

    Marilyn Cooper