WHEN it comes to taxes, we may be very tempted to short-change our government. At one point in my life, I did not feel at all concerned about not declaring a certain type of income and overstating some deductions, in order to reduce my taxes. I justified my actions by assuring myself ''Everybody does it.''
This attitude was challenged when I became a student of Christian Science shortly after graduating from college. The spiritual concepts I was learning from studying Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science, inspired me to examine my thoughts and morals. A particular statement from this book best describes the purifying self-examination that my study had on me. It's where Mrs. Eddy says, ''We never need to despair of an honest heart; but there is little hope for those who come only spasmodically face to face with their wickedness and then seek to hide it'' (p. 8).
I had to admit that I was trying to hide this dishonesty from myself. In humility I reached out to God in prayer. It became clear to me that not paying all the taxes I owed was an admission that I was afraid God would not meet all my needs. It implied that I needed to turn to dishonesty to make ends meet. Just feeling sorry about my actions wasn't enough. Even as I resolved to be more honest in paying taxes in the future, I carefully calculated how much I had underpaid all the way back to my high-school days, when I first started working. I was a bit shocked to find that I owed over a thousand dollars--a substantial part of my savings at the time. Undeterred, I wrote a check to the government.
Over a decade later, I look back on that decision as one of the most important ones of my life. It set the pattern for all my future business dealings. My greatest reward has been the knowledge that I have aligned myself with the teachings of Christian Science and of the master Christian, Christ Jesus.
Jesus clearly showed how trusting God supplies all our needs. He also taught his students to obey the laws of the land. In one case when questioned about the payment of taxes to the Roman government of his day, he said, ''Render to Csar the things that are Csar's, and to God the things that are God's'' (Mark 12:17). He taught that honest living and complete reliance on God are practical for all we do. They help us make decisions confidently and with conviction. They provide a spiritual freedom from lack and uncertainty.
More than just a formula for guilt-free living, living honestly is a way to experience a more spiritual life. It helps open the door to discovering more of the moral individuality inherent in all of us. Then we have a better understanding of Jesus' guidance to express spiritual qualities in our daily living--not only honesty, but qualities such as compassion, patience, and faith in God's guidance. Through parable and practice, our Master showed the rewards of purifying our thoughts and deeds. Following his direction, we improve our understanding of who we are, and taste, at least to some degree, the spiritual harmony he promised. We increasingly understand that we are not just material beings slugging out a difficult worldly existence. We more fully feel our present inseparability from God.
A spiritual approach to life not only provides a satisfaction much greater than any money can bring; it also meets our human needs. It helps us in successfully making decisions not only about our finances but about every part of our lives. I experienced this practicality shortly after I sent the overdue tax payment to the government. In praying about how to manage the rest of my monetary affairs, I was led to invest a portion of my remaining savings in a new way. In little more than a year this investment paid substantially more than the amount I had sent in to the government. After this initial surge, the investment paid more typical returns, though still higher than what I had earned before. And it has continued to be the best investment I've had over the years.
Spiritual living pays dividends. Not the monetary kind, but the kind that change our own and others' lives and bring newfound strength and true spiritual contentment.