Sunday, March 18, 2018

Of Taxes and Salvation

Dear Friends,

GPS' posting Friday has hung onto my mind like a bulldog - not necessarily the subject matter per se but the immanency and underlying tone of the message.  If you will humor me for a single posting, I want to offer a plea for your salvation.

I am not an apologist.  Nor particularly am I an evangelist or anything else that someone might claim as a spiritual gift.  I am at best a servant and hopefully (if you have found me and stuck with me all these years) your friend.  So allow me to talk as a friend whom at best you will listen to as someone who greatly cares for you and at worst you will humor as a crazy uncle whom you respect even though you find him tiresome at times.

Let me start with a proposition  - on taxes.

In calculating my taxes for next year, I put in certain amounts of data based on my current income and taxation levels and in return I get a number.  This number tells me if I am on track to overpay my taxes or underpay them, in which case I will owe additional money at the end of the year.  Now as most of us do not like to have to pay at the end of the year, we will adjust our withholding amounts to cover the additional money.  We do this based on the information that tax code has provided us - at worst, we find that we owe not money and at best find out we either mis-calculated or did not account for additional deductions and so receive a larger refund than we expected.  The most wrong thing we could do in that situation is be in possession of the information - even if we cannot account for everything - and choose not to act.

In a very small and broken way, this is like Christianity.

Christianity is the relationship of a God, a personal God, who has passed along information about the Nature of Himself, our own selves, and the future.  In this case, He has let us know through His word The Bible (the tax code, if you will) of the fact that there is a debt for the upcoming tax year, a debt which we - if we do our calculations correctly - realize that we have no ability to pay.  The debt, of course, is sin, an failing to live up to the standards of a Holy God. 

But much like the calculations and deductions we look for at tax time, there is good news for us as well:  the debt has a way to be paid.  It is a  simple one really: the originator of the code, God, sent someone to pay the bill that we could never pay, no matter how many deductions we searched for or exceptions we tried to argue.  His name is Jesus and he had the unique qualification in history of being both God and man:  as God, he could live a perfect life and fulfill the expectations of God and as man, he could understand and take upon himself the sins of everyone else.

The Bible, if you can think about it this way, not only the tax code but also the tax calculator I mentioned above.  It tells us what is owed and then also tells us how what we owe can be paid in a very particular way, just like payment of our own taxes has to be in our country's currency instead of just any method of payment:  through belief in Jesus as God's Son and believing that He paid the price of our sins.

There is more, of course - much more, an eternity of more, but just as the tax calculator simple instructs us how we can change our deductions so the first step of salvation is fairly straightforward.  From there, like most things, finding someone that deals in tax matters and helping you understand them - for taxes an accountant, for salvation the Church - is the next best thing you can do.

Two more points and I am done:

1)  The tax code, like every human construct, is an analogy.  But it is also a very simple version of Pascal's Wager, which asked the question "If you lived as if God was real even though He was not, what would you lose?"  In that sense very much like taxes for the coming year:  if you paid based on what you believed was going to be owed, the worst surprise is that you are not surprised at the end of the year.  The best, of course, is receiving a refund (or as it is called in the Bible, eternal life).

2)  Death, like taxes, comes for us all.  It is the one immutable fact about our lives.  It is true that one can say that God does not exist, or that there is no afterlife at all.  But much like taxes, my belief in what I owe or do not owe does not change the law's pronouncement that I owe it - and that the government will eventually collect. 


LindaG said...

Very interesting way of explaining it all. Very good, too.
You all have a blessed week, TB.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Thank you Linda! It seemed a bit weird writing it but turned out for the best, I hope.