I’m a Two Kingdoms kind of guy. I believe that God is active not only in the church, its ministry, its proclamation, or its witness. With Martin Luther, I believe that God is also active in the world apart from the mechanisms of the church. (Of course, the whole Lutheran tradition of paradox – especially the Theology of the Cross – sends us into the world to see God at work). God works in part through popular culture, government, social movements, academia and the private sector.
For this reason, I’m not a reluctant tax-payer. Surely the selfish side of me would prefer to keep 100% of my income and not pay a penny of sales tax, but these taxes fund the God-blessed work of government – work we Lutherans should support in prayer and action. Yet I also want a responsible goverment, and to that end it is our calling to be advocates of an efficient government that is a good steward of our tax dollars and a just force in society.
So on the whole, I am a cheerful taxpayer. In recent years when I’ve made a tax payment, I’ve felt a level of satisfaction by writing the name of my city, state or nation on the check and sending it to the government office down the street. This action of paying taxes has connected me to my community and my government.
However . . . Last night my wife wrote the check for our tax payment to the local municipality. This could have been an opportunity to reflect on God’s work in our locality and be thankful for the public servants who serve here. But we were perplexed. The check for our municipal tax was to be made payable to a hyphenated acronym soup and sent off to an accountant in an office complex two counties away. It’s a small thing, I guess, but this process was just down-right disappointing. By writing a check to an unknown accounting code and sending it to an unknown office miles away, our faith and civic duty of taxpaying has been severed (symbolically, anyway) from our life in this community. Oh well. So much for caring!
Regardless of where we send the tax payment on this Tax Day Eve, let us pray for our government servants and the work they do!