Taxes and integrity

A Christian Science perspective on daily life.

Do you know anyone who has cheated on his or her income tax or failed to file or pay other taxes due? Recent news stories make clear how far-reaching the penalties for such infractions can be. A few candidates for high-level positions in the US government have been disqualified for their failure to pay certain taxes.

They are not alone in this. Accompanying reports have noted once again that failure to pay legitimate taxes can be found at every level of society. While one may lament this present situation, which is preventing qualified people from filling important government positions, we can be grateful that such exposures often lead to necessary reform, both individually and governmentally.

Over half a century ago, a poor, small farmer was required to complete income tax forms and to pay taxes for the first time. Surprisingly, he was not rebellious about this new expense, but was proud of his new status as a taxpayer. He felt he was now part of the governmental system. He had become a stakeholder in what the government did, in its priorities and decisions, because it was now using his money to carry them out. This newfound status ruled out any temptation to cheat.

Years later, this farmer's grandson, educated as an accountant, is scrupulously honest in figuring his own income tax and in helping others who call on him for aid. Commenting on the current situation, he said, "It's sad to admit, but today, cheating on income tax is too often taken for granted and not always considered a criminal act or a moral offence." That may be one view, but such behavior actually has a moral effect on those who cheat.

In her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, pointed out that "the abiding consciousness of wrongdoing tends to destroy the ability to do right" (p. 405). This warning reminds us not to ignore these matters, but to work and pray for correction and prevention of wrongdoing and to lead lives of satisfying honesty. To do otherwise is to deny the spiritual nature God has given us, to set ourselves apart from God's love and guidance. Even if the cheating involves only small amounts, it's actually a denial of one's spiritual nature, which is good and governed by God, divine Principle.

This is the spiritual nature that Jesus saw when he healed the sick and helped other people with various conditions. For example, his ministry included Zacchaeus, an unscrupulous tax collector, known to the people for his dishonesty. Jesus' spiritual vision redeemed the man and saved him.

The author of the first letter to Timothy in the Bible wrote, "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty" (2:1, 2). It's often said that no government is better than its citizens. Therefore, our prayers for all citizens, as well as ourselves, will lead to improved government. It's interesting that the biblical instruction asks us to pray for all humankind and then for those in authority. Such prayer will help us and our fellow citizens be honest, but it will also support those in authority whose responsibilities require them to pass and enforce laws so that people will live in honesty.

Each of us has the opportunity to ally ourselves with the spiritual nature God has given us, to be honest and to support right endeavors, wherever they may occur. To approach life from this standard is to put ourselves into the arms of divine Love and to trust its ability to meet every need. This may not always be easy or convenient. But the unburdened conscience and the feeling of satisfaction we can get from behaving honestly will make it well worth the sacrifice.

The integrity of the upright shall guide them. Proverbs 11:3

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