“Whose likeness and inscription is this?”

So here we are again, another dreaded income tax deadline is upon us.

I imagine that accountants throughout East Texas and the United States are preparing for the mad rush of paperwork that accompanies the deadline for income tax filings.

As I scan through local, state and national news reports this time of year, I’ve noticed a curious striation of the sentiments expressed by citizens. Not only about the deadline but the concept of the income tax itself.

The irritation seems comparable to an annual physical or dental check-up. While necessary, it’s far easier to delay it for another day and just a few more tomorrows.

But why? Even among those that will likely receive a refund there’s a hesitance. Perhaps because of the possible awakening of past financial echoes.

As a charter member of the “working poor” in the lower echelon of the dwindling middle-class, I was due to get a significant portion of what I paid through the year.

However, Uncle Sam got the last laugh when I turned around and gave a significant chunk of my refund right back, to defray some of my lingering debt from college. But that’s a lament for another column.

Even so, why wait until the last minute to work all this out? There’s bound to be a reckoning. Sure, you can file an IRS Form 4868 extension that gives you some wiggle room with the paperwork.

But when the federal government calls the tab, every working American has to belly-up to the bar.

Like founding father Benjamin Franklin famously remarked, taxes are one of life’s certainties… right up there with death itself.

While I imagine there are a number of perfectly legitimate or pragmatic reasons for procrastinating the inevitability of income tax, it seems the usual rationale runs a short spectrum between fear and defiance.

People tend to focus on the positive, and taxes can be a real bummer. For those who would rather not face up to their responsibility, it can seem preferable to simply go about one’s life as though the matter need not be resolved until some far off date. Until, of course, that day arrives.

However, there are also those who will delay because they’re actually trying to work the system. They’re usually the extreme examples who end up owing egregious sums en route to an extended stay at one of the government’s exclusive federal facilities.

Still, there are others who refuse to pay their taxes out of a sense of moral or political protest.

While these fringe groups are moderately successful in duping a minority of ideologically radical individuals by playing into a latent contempt for authority, there are others who would do so from a perspective of conscience.

In my travels, I am familiar with a number of people who refuse to pay taxes to the American government in protest for the “immoral practices” of everything from abortion to the recent passage of the health care bill.

As a follower of Jesus Christ and also as a minister, I have had to talk this issue out with a number of earnest followers of late.

Such questions strike at the core of our relationship with the world around us. That is, how are we to interact with the government under whose governance we are bound?

The Bible, while clear in outlining the principles we are to follow, does not provide us with line-by-line policy.

Apostle Paul was rather straightforward in declaring that all civic authority is divinely ordained by God and that “every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.” It’s helpful to note that he wasn’t referring to “righteous” governments or even the United States.

Even as the early followers in Rome were enduring harsh persecution by a totalitarian regime, whose ruler claimed to be divine, Apostle Paul still admonished the people to pay their taxes in order to be right by conscience as well as in obedience to the Lord.

“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,” Apostle Paul writes, echoing the plain teaching of Jesus Christ: “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and render unto God what is God’s.”

Of course, there is a Biblical precedent for civil disobedience when the government explicitly commands actions that are at odds with the commands of God.

The prophet Daniel, as well as the faithful Jewish followers, refused to pay homage to the ruler of their land as a god. They refused a command that would force them to violate the commands of their Creator. Their refusal was borne out of a love for the Lord, not a perturbance with the politics of the age.

Apostle Peter writes that we submit ourselves to every human institution, not for its sake but out of love and obedience to God. That, by such faithful acts, we might silence the ignorance of foolish men and be found as good citizens.

From Genesis to Revelation there is not found any justification for Christian citizens of this and any other country to neglect their civic duty in the paying of tax, even if one objects to how that government chooses to spend their coffers or whether the tax itself is just.

If politically-inclined Christians seek to change such, they would be better served by doing so through legal means and challenges.

But, in the meantime, pay your taxes.

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