It is that time of year when all Americans go through their papers, drawers, pockets, computers, cabinets, etc., trying to find all the documents necessary to prepare their tax returns for the preceding year. Of course then you have the tax code to negotiate, with the various changes from year to year, and tax preparation services touting that they can get you a bigger, faster, better refund than anyone else.
I am confident that almost all of us have heard the statement: “Only two things are certain, death and taxes”. In pondering this statement, i wondered who said it first.
According to Fred Shapiro in his blog Freakonomics, he answered this question as follows:
This statement is usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote in a 1789 letter that “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.” However, The Yale Book of Quotations quotes “‘Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes,” from Christopher Bullock, The Cobler of Preston (1716). The YBQ also quotes “Death and Taxes, they are certain,” from Edward Ward, The Dancing Devils (1724).
So, I can affirmatively say that this saying is older than I am, and I am fairly confident it is older than you are as well!
Taxes have been around for millennia. Taxation, or something akin to it, has been around as long as there are people ruling over others.
As long ago as when the Israelites were a theocracy, with God as their Leader, there were other nations who were ruled by kings and, it is a safe bet that where there are kings, there are taxes. A different word might be used for them, like tribute, tithe, levy, fines or some other term but the meaning is the same — the ruler gets something of yours in exchange for continued life under the ruler’s protection.
Indeed, in the Bible, the book of First Samuel records the Israelites’ demand for a king, simply so that they could be like the other countries around them. They wanted to forget being governed by God, that wasn’t cool, that didn’t conform to the other people around them. They wanted to be like everyone else!
“So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. … And the LORD told [Samuel]: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights””.
1 Samuel 8:4, 7-9 [NIV]
Samuel then repeated to the people all that God told him about the ramifications of their request.
“”He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. … He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you in that day.” But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.””
1 Samuel 8:15, 17-20 [NIV]
Despite the ramifications, the people demanded a king, rejecting God and incurring all the things that God identified, and which would not be the result if they let God rule over them instead.
We can look at this scenario with disdain and think “how foolish they were to reject God just so they could be like everyone else!” But, before we start pointing fingers, we need to inspect our own demands, desires, attitudes and cravings.
Do we follow God, without reservation and without grumbling?
Do we allow Him to rule our lives, guiding us even though we don’t understand what is happening and we don’t want to do that which He is directing?
Do we tell God what we are going to do while ignoring that which He has told us to do?
Do we want to be like our neighbors, sleeping in on Sunday morning, using both weekend days for our pleasure activities without regard to worshiping our Lord and Savior?
In short, can people tell that we are Christians by how we live our life? Or are we good people who are nice, pleasant, and maybe even generous, but whose priorities have nothing to do with God?
Have we rejected God in favor of being like other people?
Jonathan Edwards said:
“How can you expect to dwell with God forever, if you so neglect and forsake him here?”
I pray that we will repent and turn back to God, seeking Him as the ruler over our lives. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Lover of our souls. He sent His Son to be our Savior Redeemer, the One who paid for our sins. But, He is also the Judge of all humanity and there will be a time when we all will be held to account for our actions, our words, and our thoughts.
Quoting Jonathan Edwards again:
“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”
Rather than wanting to be like others, let us make this our life theme, our standard, our own resolution. May we make each single day that the Lord gives to us a day in which we live for God. Even if no one else does!
Father, I thank You for the witness of the saints of old like Jonathan Edwards who could give glory, honor and devotion in the harshest of times. I pray that I would yield my life to You daily so that You can work through me as You wish. Forgive me when I have wanted to blend into the crowd, to be like others, rather than to be like Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer. .