Today is tax day. We remember Jesus’ immortal response when asked by the religious leaders whether it was right for them to pay taxes to the Roman government. He said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and render unto God that which is God’s.”
This is not just a clever statement. Jesus really meant that. Many years ago, I learned that the hard way.
It was in the 80’s and I was doing my taxes by hand. This was before Turbo Tax (and before I was in ministry). It was the evening of April 14th and I just completed my 1040 Federal Tax Return. I put it in an envelope and stuck it in the mailbox. It was then I realized that I did not report some income I had made teaching private music lessons that year. It was not a large sum of money (a few hundred dollars) and people paid me cash, so I did not think it was a big deal. Plus, I had already filled out my tax form (in pen) and sealed it in the envelope.
Then I noticed something happening to me. I felt myself trembling and shaking. My skin started breaking out in welts and rashes all over my body! I realized that the Lord’s disciplining hand was upon me. I knew He was not happy with my decision to be dishonest with the government. At first I was stubborn, lazy and rationalizing. What is a couple hundred dollars of income to a government that is so fiscally irresponsible that we are trillions of dollars in debt? But the rashes were not going away.
Finally, I went to the mailbox, got out my return, opened the sealed envelope, got out a bottle of “White-Out,” and whited-out every line of my 1040 form. After it dried, I added my income from teaching private lessons, re-worked my taxes to reflect that gain of income, got a new envelope, put a new stamp on it, and stuck it in the mailbox.
The moment I closed the door on my mailbox, the rash, the welts and the shaking went away!
I learned a lesson about integrity, honesty, and the hand of God on those He loves.
Hebrews 12:5-6 says:
My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.
I’m convinced that the Lord was not that concerned about the $15 of extra tax I needed to pay to the government. But he was very concerned about the cost to my heart if I felt I could get away with something less than honesty. It also showed a lack of faith. Allowing dishonest actions – whether it is evading taxes, lying to a person, or trying to put a disingenuous “spin” on a situation – demonstrates a lack of faith in the God who provides, who is Truth, and who redeemed us to live free, righteous lives. Out of his love, God chastised me for my own good. Yes, he gave me a good slap on the hand, but it moved me back into the right direction. I guess that’s what it means when the Psalmist says, “His rod and his staff ‘comfort’ me.”
So happy tax day! Do right today. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s (whether you think he deserves it or not). And render unto God that which is God’s – your heart, your life … your whole life worship.