It's that time of year again. My wife and I had our taxes figured up last week.
You can always tell when tax season is in full bloom by the appearance of costumed figures on the street corners near certain businesses that help people prepare and file those necessary government forms. It's usually someone dressed up as either the Statue of Liberty or Uncle Sam.
As I drive past those waving figures on the sidewalk, I don't know whether to laugh, to feel sorry for them, or simply wish they'd go away. All I know is that for me their presence doesn't do anything to attract me to the business they're advertising -- especially when a guy is portraying Lady Liberty.
Paying taxes has always been a sore spot for people. Even in Jesus' day, tax collectors were looked down upon as some of the worst scoundrels in society. Maybe that's why Jesus chose one of them to be numbered among the 12 apostles -- if a tax collector could be redeemed, then anybody could be.
And Jesus refused to fall into the trap of encouraging people to rebel against paying their taxes. Instead He wisely declared that people should pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God. Later the Apostle Paul would reiterate those sentiments by writing, "Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due..." (Romans 13:7).
Yet as we pay our taxes, we tend to do so grudgingly. Maybe we have a problem with the amount we have to pay. Maybe we don't like the way the government is using our money. Although we may have our issues over taxation, hopefully none of us will justify actions such as the man in Texas took recently -- flying a plane into an IRS building, destroying both property and human life.
Let's make sure we don't develop a similar attitude concerning giving to God -- whether it's the tithe, other monetary offerings, or the giving of our time, energy, and talents. Do we offer those things to God simply because we feel like we have to do so? Do we give to God mainly out of fear of being penalized if we don't do it?
When the Israelites brought to Moses the offerings of the items needed for the construction of the Tabernacle and its furnishings, God made it clear that He wanted people to give with willing hearts. He didn't want them to do it as if it was some heavy burden that they were being compelled to obey. God was looking for offerings being given by people who gladly wanted to present them for His use. The Apostle Paul also affirmed that concept, declaring that God loves a cheerful giver (II Corinthians 9:7).
We shouldn't have the same concerns about giving to God that we may have about paying our taxes. For one thing, God can't overcharge us -- it all belongs to Him anyway. Additionally, we can be sure that whatever we offer to Him will be used properly and wisely.
However we may feel about paying taxes, the Bible indicates we have an obligation to fulfill in that area, even if we do so grudgingly at times. But let's have a different spirit when it comes to giving to God. Let's be thankful that we have the means to give and an opportunity to have a part in God's work. Let's give our money, time, and effort willingly and cheerfully.
And it could be that the next time you're driving through town, the Lord might even want you to give a compassionate smile and wave back to that guy in the Statue of Liberty costume.
The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Rockdale Evangelical Methodist Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at RevTElder@aol.com.