Taxes and Fuel

“That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended – civilizations are built up – excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to humans.” — CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

I spent part of President’s Day working on our taxes (the rest of day was better spent — and cheaper — hanging out with MrE). Pastors fall into a weird sort of self employed category. I make my quarterly estimated payments, but get a housing break and we can opt out of social security for religious objections. Unfortunately, I only have practical objections, so self-employment tax comes out of everything (housing included – though not income tax). Now my interest payments and charitable giving no longer add up, but our ACA plan adds complications… are you confused? I am! So I buy tax software. But even their questions can be complicated. If I ever dig for answers, the government tax documents leave me dumbfounded… I have a Master’s Degree. I did well in school. Some consider me smart (or at least I do!)… but if I am audited, my only defense will be “TurboTax told me to do it!”

Still, yesterday as I worked, I pondered a world where taxes were simple. We all payed our share and never worried about tax forms again… and it occurred to me, why can’t that be reality? We live in America. Power to the people. This could be the new American Dream. Forget home ownership – I have had three, they are not all they are cracked up to be (especially when they crack!). Our dream could be to not fill out a 1040 again! Even if I had to pay a little more in taxes, I wouldn’t have to pay for software or an advisor. I would save days of stress every year. Not only would I live more fully now, I would surely live longer without the wear and tear of yearly tax insanity! And ALL of the country could have this joy… make April 15th a holiday. Go hug a neighbor and burn a 1040!

It is hard to imagine this becoming reality. Didn’t the government just try to simplify the code? But everyone wanted to keep their deductions, even if meant keeping convoluted forms. No one was willing “to pay a little more” for sanity… if we can’t solve a small problem, how will solve anything?

BUT what if we choose to stop the race. The full CS Lewis passage talks about how God created us to run on a certain fuel. Like an engine runs on gasoline (he says petrol). What if we choose to stop and refuel? To Live on the God who is Love.

Even in tax season, Jesus calls. “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.” Leaving all the money on the table, Matthew decided to live on God’s love.

So who is ready to burn some 1040s with me?! You know… after I get my taxes paid.

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