Income-Tax Day Woes - and Joys?
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
It's done! I hit the e-file button sending my 1040 form to the IRS, and I received an e-mail saying it was accepted. Did income-tax day have its woes? Yes. Usually I get a refund. This year I had to add to my estimated payments. But income-tax day joy? Yes, I did feel joy. Here's why:
United States citizens pay fewer taxes by far than most of the 33 economically-developed countries of the world. Only four countries pay less: Ireland, Turkey, Chile, and Mexico. I can't imagine choosing any of them as my homeland!
But there's another reason I felt joy when filing my income tax.
Last night I received a phone call that a beloved niece was in the emergency room, needing immediate and expensive diagnostic tests and expert medical attention. Thank God she is receiving them. When I did the math, I found that $1,512 of my tax payment will go to U.S. health agencies that will help to make sure she and others like her receive the health care they need.
Dear friends of mine are home after serving 50 years with great deprivation on the mission field. They are now living frugally on their social security. Recently he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. I did the math: $1,361 of the money I sent to the IRS will help them and other social security recipients.
This week an army veteran came to see me who is suffering badly from PTSD. My quick math says $216 of my tax payment will go to help needy veterans like him.
This week I received a phone call from a desperate woman living in another state. Her husband is threatening to divorce her. She's the mother of five small children and has no family near. I am so very glad I could assure her that the law will protect her, and, if need be, provide food stamps and subsidized housing. That's where $216 of my tax payment will go.
Last night I slept through the night, unmolested by enemies of the USA, because men and women in the armed services kept watch. That security will be paid for, in part, by $875 of my tax dollars.
You might protest that there is great waste in some government programs, that some in high administrative positions and elected officials are lax and venal, that spending 3 trillion dollars each year when we do not have it is financially irresponsible. And I agree. We have an enormous obligation to elect trust-worthy people to every office in this dear country of ours. But that doesn't remove my responsibility to pay my taxes.
Here's what God says:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. . . .
For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.
Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing.
Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
Romans 13:1-7 (this was written when Nero was emperor of Roman!)
Yes, income-tax day has its woes and its joys, but mostly joys. Thank God for America!
A confession of sorts by Libby Handford
If you have children, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about: the exasperation you feel when you've planned an exciting adventure and they all cry, "Me first!" That excitement dissolves into a melee of howls and tears because every child wants to be first.
How can children be so selfish, so self-centered, that they can't even think to be kind to a younger child? Sadly, "Me first" seems to be ingrained in the human heart.
We expect selfishness in children, but we hope that we grown-ups have learned to think of the welfare of others before we consider their own interests.
A pastor of our acquaintance once announced his text for his Sunday sermon:
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit,
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
Let each of you look out not only for his own interests,
but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:3,4 nkjv).
He read his text and then said to his congregation, "I have looked out for your interests long enough, and I'm tired of the pressures of the pastorate. Now I am going to look out for my own interests." He had turned the meaning of that Scripture upside-down. He immediately left the ministry and began to pursue a career he hoped would yield him money, lots of money. But he lost something very precious in the exchange, and he was saddened that he could never find it again.
In that same Philippians passage, the Apostle Paul said he was sending his friend Timothy to help them, because
"I have no one like-minded,
who will sincerely care for your state.
For all seek their own,
not the things which are of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:21,22)
I would have told you that I thought I had grown enough in my spiritual life that I do care more for the needs of others than I care about myself.
But the other day my medical doctor told me she was retiring, and my immediate reaction was, "Oh, no, Doctor. Please don't retire! I need you too much!"
And that, dear reader, was as selfish a response as any child who cries "Me first!"
Why shouldn't my elderly and tired doctor retire after the years of faithful and competent service she has given me? Why shouldn't I be content with the able and caring doctor who is taking her place? Why not? Because I am inherently self-centered and I sometimes care more about me than I care about the needs of others. I "seek my own."
Timothy sincerely cared for the needs of others, when everybody else seemed to seek their own interests, "not the things which are of Christ Jesus."
It's a reminder I need (and perhaps you need it, too) in all of my interactions with other people. When a problem arises, I need to look at it from the viewpoint of the others involved. I need to care about their needs more than I care about my own needs. That's true in every part of my life: my work place, my community, my church, and perhaps, especially, with my family.
A Hot Day, A Hot Radiator, and Seven Hot Travelers
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Rice Handford
It shouldn't have been a big deal. I'd often driven alone with the children the 400 miles or so to see my parents. Walt always took great care that my vehicle was in good shape, so I wasn't worried about this trip. Walt and son John couldn't come until after the Sunday services, so they would follow us on Monday.
I say the trip shouldn't have been a big deal, but it was a searing hot day. As I neared Atlanta, I saw the radiator temperature gauge creeping up. I stopped immediately at a service station. The attendant said it just needed water. He waited for the engine to cool and topped it off for me.
Another 50 miles down the road, the gauge went up again. Another stop at a service station. That attendant said the radiator thermostat had been put in wrong, so he inverted it. About 30 miles down the road, another service man said the radiator cap shouldn't have been so tightly screwed on, so he loosened it.
Now, near dusk, the automobile overheating again, and still 150 miles from my destination, I was desperate and near tears. I saw a small, isolated
Gulf station in a deep valley near the interstate, pulled off, and told the attendant my problem.
Unlike the other service men I'd sought help from, he listened to my story, asked me questions, and seemed to think through the problem before he spoke. I was reassured. It seemed he sincerely cared, that I was not just an unprofitable problem to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible. And I felt he had integrity-he approached the problem with thoughtfulness. "I think I know what's wrong," he said. He settled us in a small waiting area while he back-flushed the radiator and checked for leaks.
Whatever he did, it worked. I drove the rest of the way with no trouble.
(And, as you mechanics who read this will ask, the answer is yes, the engine head was cracked. During that week of vacation, Walt spent great father/son time with his boys, working as "back-yard mechanics," hoisting the old engine from the Buick by a chain hung from a strong tree limb, and installing another engine. Thankfully, we made the trip home without incident.)
That incident happened probably 45 years ago. That small Gulf station has long been obliterated by a ten-lane interstate highway, but I often remember with deep thankfulness the gas station operator who acted with such kindness. I couldn't have paid him enough for what he did for me that dark night.
Douglas Adams says,
To give real service
you must add something
which cannot be bought or measured with money,
And that is sincerity and integrity.
Whatever task it is that we face today, whatever service we may offer, may God help us to do it with real sincerity and integrity. Only then have we done well the job we were hired to do.
"And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." Colossians 3:23,24