The day I saw beyond the tax issue
A Christian Science perspective: Our provision truly comes from God’s infinite love, and is therefore spiritual, consistent, and impeccably just.
Some years ago in Britain, anger at a proposed tax law had been growing, culminating in the kind of riot that makes for dramatic news footage. It included images of rioters and horse-mounted police clashing outside my wife’s workplace.
Gratefully, my wife got home safely that day. But fear loomed large that this violence was just the beginning. That made for a sleepless night. Not as in I couldn’t sleep, but as in I wouldn’t sleep until I’d found my peace about what was going on. And to me, that meant uncovering a calm I believe is innate within us all, irrespective of our circumstances – a spiritual poise that the Bible poetically describes as “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7, New King James Version). It was a peace I had seen, time and again, could lead to resolution and solutions.
So I stayed up, pacing back and forth, reaching for a silent sense of God’s presence and power, aware that I was doing so in unseen unity with countless others turning to God for comfort and answers.
My prayer wasn’t a plea for God to intervene. That’s not how I understand God to work. Turning to the spiritual resources I’d been gaining through the teachings of Christian Science, I was seeking to get past the notion that those news reports were the last word on what was going on, and instead gain a more spiritual perspective of events.
My starting point for such prayer is to focus on the nature of divine Spirit, God, and to work back from the nature of the creator to glimpse what the creation therefore must be. As unlikely as it might seem when we’re confronted by images of upheaval, God is unchanging perfection, and a perfect creator logically must result in a perfect, spiritual creation. So that’s where my thought rested for a while, in a recognition of this divinely scientific relation of man to God, including the spiritual truth for every man, woman, and child – and that as God’s children we’re neither angered nor greedy.
As my thought calmed through glimpsing this spiritual view, I found myself looking beyond the surface issue of political polarization. I considered instead what might underlie both opposing views. In doing so, it came to me that a major part of the problem was the almost universal assumption that provision, worth, and well-being come from something material, and are therefore fluctuating and unfair. In this matter-based view, how much money we have seems all-important. Yet the amount available is assumed to be limited, creating a sense of haves and have-nots.
I knew, though, that centuries earlier, Christ Jesus had proved the opposite – that our provision truly comes from God’s infinite love, and is therefore spiritual, consistent, and impeccably just. Experiences such as the feeding of thousands, when several loaves of bread and a few fish were the only food available, indicated that God can always provide for everyone’s needs (see Matthew 14:13-21).
In my own experience I’d seen more modest, yet significant, proofs of God’s ever-present sufficiency meeting my needs when I’d seemed to be lacking funds. I’d also seen how our experience of sufficiency grows more consistent as we gain a better understanding of God’s love.
So that night, amid the pacing, my prayer helped me see how God’s infinite provision is true for all. But then it struck me that there was something more I needed to see. I became conscious of the spiritual idea that as God’s children, which we all are, we all inherently know our sufficiency truly comes from God and is consistent – leaving no reason to riot on the one hand, nor to greedily grab wealth on the other hand. This realization brought me the peace I’d sought. It freed me from fears of a repeat of the violence.
As it turned out, there was no repetition of that day’s violence. Even more unexpectedly, the tax itself never made it into law. Instead it was superseded by one generally deemed much fairer.
As a spiritual teacher, Jesus was once asked whether it was right to pay taxes. Instead of arguing the rights and wrongs of the tax, he asked whose head was inscribed on a coin. When it was affirmed that it was Caesar’s image, he simply said, “give to Caesar ... what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God!” (Matthew 22:21, J.B. Phillips, “The New Testament in Modern English”).
The answer Jesus gave was a wise rebuke to crafty questioners hoping to trick him into denouncing the governing ruler. But that was never Jesus’ mission. Instead, he consistently denounced whatever would tempt us to think of ourselves as dependent on limited matter instead of infinite Spirit. He saw beyond the tax issue to the more profound importance of identifying Spirit, God, rather than matter, as everyone’s divine source, and an endless fount of sufficiency for all.
That night, following the rioting, I too glimpsed the truth of God’s infinite provision for all, and doing so brought such a sweet sense of our God-given freedom – a freedom that it’s natural for everyone to experience!
“In the scientific relation of God to man, we find that whatever blesses one blesses all, as Jesus showed with the loaves and the fishes, – Spirit, not matter, being the source of supply” (Mary Baker Eddy, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 206).