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Embracing Death and Taxes

Since 1955 our taxes have been due on April 15. According to Benjamin Franklin, “Only two things are certain in life: Death and Taxes.” This rather fatalistic proverb draws our attention to the actual inevitability of death to highlight the difficulty in avoiding the burden of taxes. The implication is that both are things we want to avoid.


The similarities between the two are clear. In preparation to send in our taxes by April 15th we will spend hours sorting through our receipts and double checking the numbers on the forms. Why? To see if we can eke out a lower tax bill. Likewise, many will work hard to avoid the grim reaper by eating healthier diets, exercising more and eliminate habits that are detrimental to a long life. Both taxes and death are things that we want to avoid.


And yet, just as the tax man cometh on April 15, one day so too will the grim reaper. Death is the inevitable consequence of life just as taxes are the inevitable duty of a citizen. However, our language expresses a desire to avoid the inevitable with expressions like, “cheating death” or “dodging taxes”. Our aversion reveals a problem in our thinking that will likely shape the way we approach life. Living a life that seeks to avoid things is problematic. Rather than avoiding things, we would be wise to embrace them. Consider how thinking differently about our trials can make our life better.


It starts by remembering a quote from Lynn Anderson’s song, “I beg your pardon. I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine there’s got to be a little rain sometime.” Or, as Margaret Mitchell humorously tells us in Gone With the Wind: "Death, taxes, and childbirth! There’s never any convenient time for any of them." In other words, the storms that we face are the inevitable consequence of life since the fall.


And yet, there is hope; in Christ we can embrace life to its fullest. James tells us how saying, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” (James 1:2–4)


Seeing trials as “an opportunity for great joy” does a couple of things for us. First, it lifts our eyes off our worries and allows us to see what God is doing in our midst. Second, it reminds us that God will use those hard things to not only give us a chance to grow, but will use them to make us “perfect and complete.”


Do you want to be “perfect and complete”? If we’re honest, we’re likely to say, “Show me the way!” And yet, learning that the way is littered with trials and hardships, we may change our mind and want something easier. But, a life fully lived will come with trials – even death and taxes. By looking to the promises of Scripture we can find hope and joy even in the midst of our trials.


More than that, peace will be found by resting in God’s promises like this one from Paul in Romans 8, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”(1-2) Our faith in what Christ has done for us sets us free from the burdens of the worries of this life.


Concerning taxes, Jesus told his followers to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” implying that they were to fulfill their civic duties, including paying taxes. Concerning death, we are able to face death full of confidence and assurance if we rest in Christ’s finished work. Placing our faith in the redemptive work of Christ frees us from the “sin that leads to death” and gives us eternal life.


I still struggle to joyfully pay my taxes and I am not expectantly anticipating my own death, but neither am I fearful or resisting them at all cost. To embrace my responsibility to pay taxes as a citizen of this nation frees me from the temptation to whine and complain. It not only allows me to “consider it an opportunity for great joy” to pay my fair share, but it also frees me from the fears of the taxman or the grim reaper.

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