Your life is on the line.
That’s a one-liner (double entendre intended) that is always true, but is even more vividly evident this week. Actually, we’re just eight days from the filing deadline, to give an account for your 2017 life to the Federal (and State) taxing authorities. Your life is on the line…
There are three places where our Kingdom citizenship will be revealed as we report our American citizenship; for better or for worse, our story will be exposed in a way that is masked from most of our friends, co-workers and friends. The IRS manages the taxable system(s) that extract the individual tax revenues that produce just-under 50% of the federal budget. Within that sweeping universe of dollars and data, our experience with God is on display for them – and, us – to see.
There are three lines in the federal tax forms that are rich with meaning. What are they?
Form 1040/Line #22: Total Income. This represents the sum of wages, salaries, interest, dividends, capital gains, pensions and annuities, rental income, royalties, partnership distributions and any other beneficial receipts that came into your hands during the taxable year. Most people live-and-die by the rise-and-fall of Line #22.
Frederick Douglass – respected American leader a century ago – defined the concept of the self made man: “…who owes little or nothing to birth, relationship, friendly surroundings; to wealth inherited or to early approved means of education; who are what they are, without the aid of any of the favoring conditions by which other men usually rise in the world and achieve great results.” While a valuable concept within a sociological context, it gives rise to the deception that there is no Higher Power behind human achievement. Are we “self-made,” or do we owe God any gratitude?
How could that number have spiritual significance? “But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant…” (Deuteronomy 8:18). Is God our source of provision? Form 1040/Line #22 has spiritual implications: who’s in control of that number? And, are there any responsibilities attached?
Form 1040/Schedule A/Line #16: Gifts to Charity… by cash or check. Here’s a challenging math project: divide Schedule A/Line 16 by 1040/Line #22. If the result is less than 10%, God has a designation for you: “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – your whole nation – because you are robbing me.” (Malachi 3:8-9).
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus portrayed the standards of his Kingdom as an even higher standards than the Law. Moses denounced murder; the Kingdom sets the bar at hatred. Adultery was chargeable for the Jews; thinking lustful thoughts was the new Kingdom criterion. In every category cited, Jesus made the expectations under grace far more extraordinary than Jewish Law.
Never lie to the IRS on your Tax Return with the intent to lower your taxable income or underpay your taxes: cheating the government is a no-win proposition. Malachi speaks for God to say that his audits – which are conducted for 100% of his citizens – result in blessings or curses, based on meeting his tithe codes…
Here’s a form you’re not familiar with: it’s Form 706: Estate Tax Return. It will be filed – someday – by your Executor. On Line #3a, it will report your “Tentative Taxable Estate.” That’s the total taxable value of what you’ll leave behind someday, when you head to Paradise to claim your eternity with the Savior. That line – in Form 706 – will be a source of some potential regret for you, then: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… ” (Matthew 6:19-20).
This week, your life is on the line. Take some time to ponder the significance of what you’ll sign and send in. The report you’ll deliver someday to Jesus – at the end – is even more telling…