The Word on the Week

A Taxing Matter

Was it Samuel Johnston, in one of his more cynical moments, who said that nothing was certain except death and taxes? In recent years the latter has been far from certain in Ireland but it appears that that from the 15th Sept. that could all change. Faced with declining revenues new measures have been put in place to obtain automatic returns of interest, from Banks and Building Societies, paid on significant deposits. Landlords also come in for attention as the government plans a crackdown on those who fail to register their tenancies and come into the tax net. Accountants, long thought to have been an ally of Revenue, have apparently not always been so. Those, whose clients have been convicted of evasion, may find themselves joining their clients in the dock! Over the period since 2000 when the present Taoiseach was Minister of Finance the sum of 2.45 billion euro was recovered in evaded taxes. If this figure was to be used as a target for the present incumbent tax evasion may cease to be a national pastime! What do we find in the scriptures? Taxes were never popular especially when they had to be paid to the Roman army of occupation. The Pharisees, who wanted to trap Jesus with his own words, tried to make use of this fact. They asked Jesus the question, “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not”? It was a well crafted question designed to alienate Jesus from the people if he answered “Yes” and to make him liable for treason if he answered “No”. (Read it in St Luke’s Gospel Chapter 20 verses 20 to 26.) Jesus’s answer was to ask for a coin. The Roman coin was passed to him. It had Caesar’s image stamped on it. He asked them who it was. Their acknowledgement that it was Caesar brought forth the response, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. The Pharisees trap had been sprung! They were silenced. The coin in Caesar’s image was Caesars. But what are we to make of the request to give to God what is God’s? We have to ask ourselves the question, “who is made in God’s image?” The answer, we are. Jesus is here proclaiming that we are not our own but were created for a purpose – to be the image bearer of the living God. So was Samuel Johnston right? It’s most likely he was wrong on both counts! Tax evaders will always be with us. And death for the image-bearer of the living God is really past – Jesus bore the pain of it for him at Calvary. Trust him with your life.