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Missions 101

They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Tax Return

Mar. 22, 2012By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

Turbo Tax is a wonderful thing and I have found it very helpful in preparing our tax returns.  It shows me in a crystal clear fashion how much money I have made and the various deductions I can take – in particular, charitable giving.  Last night as I finished and clicked “Send” to e-file, they alerted me that I had a high risk of being audited.  A few thoughts crossed my mind.

Rendering to the US

I don’t like the tax system in the US – it’s very American to think such a thing.  I don’t think it’s fair (but not in the way most people complain about it), but my conscience and Scripture leads me to believe that fudging my tax return is not a good way to protest.  I’m not going to give the government more or less than they want.  I will stay within the parameters of the law.

Jesus once said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's” (Luke 20:25 ESV).  I'm sure the Roman government was doing plenty of immoral things with the taxes people paid.  For Jesus, that was not the issue.  He did not take a moral stand by not paying taxes, nor should we.  I am sure that last sentence should be nuanced, but let us have Luke 20:25 start the conversation. 

My Integrity is Worth More Than $900

My wife is amazing.  One of things she does on top having four little children is teach private music lessons.  Before children she was an opera singer (for real!), a high school teacher and a college instructor.  Now she teaches the kids of two families.  They are lucky. 

The IRS would never know if I didn’t enter her income.  When I did, our return dropped $900.  For us, that is quite a chunk of change.   Thoughts ran through my mind for a day as I thought about whether to enter her income.  Who cares, I thought, about a few hundred dollars.   They won’t miss it anyway.

Even thinking of it caused turmoil in my soul.  Could I sell out for a few hundred dollars?  Unfortunately, it was tempting, but in the end I trusted Christ and the promises of Scripture and moved on.  It is amazing how doing the right thing is burden lifting.  

Scripture says,  "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold" (Proverbs 22:1 ESV).  May it be true of all of us who name Christ as Savior.  Report all your income to the glory of God.

If I am Audited, I Hope They Can Tell I am a Christian Without Talking To Me

Someone might take a peek at tax return, and I hope they can see how much I value Christ.  I remember first thinking something like this a few years ago when I was trying to buy a home and the mortgage broker was a Christian.  He knew my job, my income and my giving.  Was he challenged and spurred on to a life of generosity or was he appalled by how low my giving was?

I know first hand that there are complicating situations that cause giving to increase and decrease in different seasons of life.  There is also a lot of giving that can’t be recorded as a tax write-off, but I hope the IRS agent sees that I value Christ and serve Him, not money.

Jesus said,  “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money" (Matthew 6:24 ESV).  May it be true of us.

And What of the Return

Many of us are going to have money coming back to us.  What should we do?  Are you asking: Does this count as income that we need to give away?  If so, it's the wrong question.  We should ask: How can I use this to glority God?  It could mean employing a friend to do work or helping a non-profit or church.  It could mean buying a gift for a family member.  It's all His.  

Maybe next year I will get audited as well.


Darren Carlson is the Founder and President of Training Leaders International.  As President, Darren oversees the general direction of the ministry and serves as an advocate for pastors with little access to formal training and thoughtful cross-cultural theological engagement. You can connect with him on Facebook and Twitter

Tags:  integrity, money, economics
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