Death and Taxes

The old quote that we have all heard throughout our lives is that there is nothing certain except death and taxes. Certainly, as tomorrow is April 15th, taxes for another year have been paid, and for the lucky ones a refund has been sent electronically into their bank accounts. Benjamin Franklin is often remembered as the originator of this phrase, found in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, in 1789 - “Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes (; emphasis mine, bcj).” No matter the country or place in history, it seems that death and taxes have always followed man. Therefore, we will pay in both counts, and our spiritual condition before God depends entirely upon the choice to either be found rebellious or obedient.

When Jesus was asked by the Pharisees whether to pay taxes to Caesar, their intention was to catch Him in a dilemma (Matthew 22:15-22). If Jesus told the Pharisees that they did not have to pay their tax to Caesar, then He would have broken Roman law and would have been held accountable by the Romans. Therefore, Jesus clears the air with one simple statement, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” It was this answer that the Pharisees were seemingly unable to combat and they left amazed at the wisdom of Jesus.

The dilemma of taxes did not only prevail in the days of the gospels, but Paul also wrote concerning our duties to the state. In the thirteenth chapter of Romans, Paul gave the same command as Christ – “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7). It would seem that the certainty of taxes that follow man in every country must be paid. We may complain or gripe about the percentages or amount, but this does not remove our responsibility to pay our taxes, nor excuse our desire to possibly cheat.

A greater dilemma is found beyond the taxes that are paid every April 15th, and it is the second certainty of Franklin’s statement - DEATH! The Hebrew writer said, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). We are constantly faced with the truth that our lives are but a fleeting vapor which will shortly pass (James 4:14). It seems with every passing day and its loss of life, that each person dies too young. A person that dies suddenly at the age of 65 because of a heart attack is considered to have been too young. Imagine a time in recent history of the world where 65 was ever considered young. Even within my own life, this age does not seem as old as it was once. As our livelihoods and medicinal purposes have been able to prolong our lives, we must still understand that our deaths are imminent.

If we are unprepared for this “swift transition,” then we will be caught in the horrifying situation of standing before the living God. Our Father who reigns in heaven has given every available resource to provide victory for His creation and will require of each man an answer according to his deeds, whether good or bad (2 Corinthians 5:10). Truly there is no greater fear that should motivate us to complete submission to God than the thought of being found as a son of iniquity and unrighteousness. The fear of failing to accomplish the Father’s will should move our hearts to greater devotion.    

Therefore, what are we willing to do with the remainder of time given to us on this earth? Am I willing to listen and hear the gospel (Romans 10:17)? Will my heart be pierced by its power and my life forever changed by God’s grace? Refusing to believe in God and delaying our obedience are never wise decisions. The Hebrew writer admonished his brethren and called for them to repent, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7). Today is the day of salvation and the longer a person delays, the slimmer his opportunity to repent becomes and may even be eternally gone. If tomorrow, the old quote reigned true, what would be your answer before God?

When April 15th, 2019 has come and gone, our taxes will be paid up for another year. We will not be indicted because of tax evasion, because we have done our duty as Americans and paid the bill. However, the date of our eternal judgment has still not occurred and Jesus continues to stand at the door, knocking (Revelation 3:20). Will you answer His call today?