Paying Taxes with Thanksgiving
by Jeremy Walter
“A sign of good stewardship is paying taxes with thanksgiving.” – Ron Blue.
We may have just lost most of our readers one line into this article, but bear with us – while we do believe this is an extremely difficult concept to embrace, we also believe it’s a Biblical truth. We’ll examine specific Bible passages shortly, but first off, we’ll lay out a couple of straight-forward contextual points regarding taxes.
First, there are a lot of taxes that we pay as citizens of the United States: income, sales, estate, inheritance, gift, property, Social Security, and capital gains are all a solid start to the list. So when we mention taxes, we’re thinking about more than just the marginal income tax we all pay.
Secondly, there is a fundamental and systematic difference between tax evasion and tax reduction. Tax reduction is a legitimate financial goal. Tax evasion isn’t just illegal; it’s immoral and would violate Biblical commands.
And lastly, we want to point out the direct correlation between income and incomes taxes due. Ron Blue used to counsel clients that if they truly would like to reduce their tax liability, the most straight forward approach to doing so is to reduce their income. Not many people were excited to do that. As difficult as it is to grasp, a higher tax bill is almost always indicative of higher income or appreciation, both of which would be favorable gifts from God.
Tax reduction, although a worthy goal and smart stewardship, should never be the tail that wags the dog in your overall financial and stewardship planning.
Remember, true stewardship is the ongoing recognition that we are temporarily managing assets that ultimately belong to God. This would include our ability to receive income. True stewardship would see that income, from whatever entity it comes from, as ultimately coming from God. This recognition of God’s ownership is hugely important to paying taxes with thanksgiving. Why?
How we manage money – including the payment of taxes – is a direct reflection of our integrity. God uses money as a tool in our lives, to test and to mold us in preparation for other non-material aspects of our present and future lives. Luke 16:10 says “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”
Jesus himself speaks directly about paying taxes, as recorded in Luke 20:25 to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” Similarly, when the Jewish tax collectors came to collect the temple tax in Matthew 17, Jesus also said to Peter to pay it so as to not cause trouble. In a sign of God’s provision to honor such an act, the tax for both Jesus and Peter is paid from a coin that Peter pulls out of a fish’s mouth after Jesus tells him to cast a fishing line into the lake.
Paul also addresses this in Romans 13:6-7 when he states to “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”
We don’t need to look too far in our culture to find perceived reasons to pay less than our legal obligations to our government: “everyone else is doing it,” “I don’t want to support an irresponsible government,” “It’s a non-productive use of money,” and “I disagree with the government” are all commonly stated opinions. But none of them hold up very well in light of what we’ve talked about above.
Ron Blue actually says, out loud, with each quarterly tax estimate he pays: “Thank you, God, for providing me the opportunity to pay this tax.” How can he get to this point?
He says that the secret to paying taxes with joy and with thanksgiving is to stop thinking about the money as OURS, and truly believe and act that it is God’s. If we do so, and if we believe that He has placed our current tax laws and government in place and expects integrity from us, this actually becomes possible. We’re able to see his hand of provision in our lives. It doesn’t mean we don’t do effective (and legal) planning to potentially reduce our tax liability, but it does mean that we can pay taxes free of guilt or shame and actually bring honor to God in our ability to do so.
Securities America and its representatives do not provide tax advice; therefore it is important to coordinate with your tax advisor regarding your specific situation.