- Eldon Peterson
Taxes and the Day of Reckoning
It’s April 15th and hopefully you have your taxes completed (or at least will have them done by this year’s official due date of April 18th.) It’s likely, if you were expecting a refund, you sent your return in weeks ago. However, if you owe money, you may have decided to wait until the last day to file. Regardless, we file our taxes not just to be good citizens, but to also avoid a tax judgement.
While our day of reckoning isn’t always a negative, we are likely to desire to avoid it. Why? Because we are fearful that we will fall short of the standard of perfection required to not be found guilty. While my tax software declared that everything looked good on my return, no red flags to cause an IRS audit, I would still rather not face an audit to see if my software is correct!
Most are motivated to do their taxes correctly to avoid an audit. But all do not share in this motivation. Since taxes are done on somewhat of an honor system, and with the millions of returns being processed, some will convince themselves that it is okay to fudge the numbers here or there. Who would know? But for them, penalties and threats of incarceration are enough to motivate them to give an honest reporting on their 1040.
Those not motivated by personal integrity will choose to play the odds; they hope to push their reckoning down the road to a later time. But pretending that the tax bill won’t come due, that we can avoid judgement, is foolish. For even if we are successful and avoid being discovered, we still know our dishonesty.
To this, they may say that they don’t care. However, my experience tells me that rarely is this true. The Bible reveals how the Lord will use our conscience to convict us, “The Lord gave us mind and conscience; we cannot hide from ourselves.” (Proverbs 20:27) Jesus too warns of judgement saying, “And when [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” (John 16:8) The purpose of our conviction is to lead us to repentance so that we might avoid the “coming judgement.”
It is because of our guilt that the Father sent Jesus to die for us. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) Our reckoning before God is not due to a lapse of judgement, or a mistake or even for out and out intentional evil deeds. Jesus says that all are judged because, “The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.” (John 16:9) It is because of our failure to trust in Jesus and his death for our sins that we are judged.
This may sound like some kind of religious jargon, but it is critical for us to understand. Cheating on your taxes is bad. Cheating on your spouse is bad. Stealing from your workplace or a friend is bad. These and countless other things are diametrically opposed to the saving faith that gives us new life – but none of these will be the reason for our judgment before the Lord. The only thing, according to Jesus, that will cause us to fail God’s judgement is a lack of faith in him.
If this is true, how can we avoid judgement? Paul says that the way of salvation from God’s judgement is clear, “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” (Romans 10:9–10)
We need to fear the Lord’s judgment more than we fear of the IRS. As Jesus warns, “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) While there are reasons to be fearful of the consequences of our sins in this life, it is the consequence of our unbelief, and the judgement that follows, that brings us to repentance. The judgement of the Lord that we should fear is not for cheating on our taxes but on whether or not we are believing in Christ for our salvation.