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Today is “Tax Day.” Why was it not April 15 as usual? April 15 fell on a Sunday this year, which would push Tax Day to Monday, April 16.
However, that date is when Washington, DC, observes Emancipation Day.
The holiday honors the 1862 passage of the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act, which ended slavery in the nation’s capital by paying slaveowners to pledge loyalty to the Union and free their slaves.
Thus, Tax Day was pushed to today. But “Tax Freedom Day” is Thursday.
You will have worked until April 19 to earn enough money to pay your total tax bill. In other words, everything you earn until Thursday belongs to the government. What you earn beginning on Friday, you can keep.
Americans will pay $3.19 trillion in federal taxes and $1.80 trillion in state and local taxes this year. The total of $5.19 trillion is more than we spend on food, clothing, and housing–combined.
“Seek his presence continually!”
It’s natural for us to divide our financial loyalties between what we owe in taxes and what we can keep for ourselves. Unfortunately, such bifurcation is also common in our spiritual lives.
In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis observes:
“The ordinary idea which we all have before we become Christians is this. We take as starting point our ordinary self with its various desires and interests. We then admit that something else–call it ‘morality’ or ‘decent behavior,’ or ‘the good of society’–has claims on this self: claims which interfere with its own desires.
“What we mean by ‘being good’ is giving in to those desires. Some of the things the ordinary self wanted to do turn out to be what we call ‘wrong’: well, we must give them up. Other things, which the self did not want to do, turn out to be what we call ‘right’: well, we shall have to do them.
“But we are hoping all the time that when all the demands have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, and some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact, we are very like an honest man paying his taxes. He pays them all right, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on.”
Jesus’ way is different.
Our Lord told his followers, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23, my emphasis). God’s word calls us to “seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (Psalm 105:4).
Jesus led a sinner to himself even on the cross (Luke 23:43). Peter and John met a crippled man and used his healing to witness to massive crowds (Acts 3:11-12). Paul and Silas sang hymns in prison at midnight, “and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25). John turned his Patmos prison into a global ministry platform (Revelation 1:9).
As C. S. Lewis noted, if you picture time as a line on the page, you must picture God as the page.
Transactional vs. transformational
If the Bible clearly calls us to live unconditionally for and with our Lord, where do we get the idea that we can separate Sunday from Monday and the “spiritual” from the “secular”?
The answer is in our cultural “genes.”
Do you remember studying Greek mythology in high school? Zeus, Apollo, and the rest of the pantheon live atop Mt. Olympus but act more like humans than gods. Capricious and scheming, their lives read like an ancient soap opera. But the Greeks believed that they had to be worshiped before they would give worshipers what they wanted.
Thus, we find temples to the various deities across the ancient Greco-Roman world. In Corinth, a temple to Apollo stands in pristine condition. In Athens, “the city was full of idols” (Acts 17:16). The Romans renamed many of the Greek gods but continued their worship.
However, people in the ancient world did not want a personal, intimate relationship with these gods. Their deities were too conniving and untrustworthy for that. Instead, they developed transactional religion–if we give the gods what they want, they will give us what we want. The Greeks and Romans made their sacrifices to do their “religious” duty, then went about their lives.
When Christianity grew into the larger Greco-Roman world, some of its followers adopted this spiritual bifurcation. Over time, they separated the “clergy” from the “laity” and built buildings so the clergy could do their work while the laity watched.
But the Bible does not offer a transactional religion with a distant god–it offers a transformational relationship with a loving Father.
What do you desire most in this world?
Your taxes are due today, part of your transactional relationship with your government. You can treat your soul as you do your taxes, or you can experience the abundant life Jesus died to offer you (John 10:10).
Every moment of this day belongs to your Lord, to be used for his glory and our good. If we live today fully in his presence, we will reflect his light as we experience his power, peace, and joy.
In a recent devotional, Anne Graham Lotz testified: “There is nothing in this world that I desire more than the presence of Jesus in my life.”
Do you agree?