Jerry sat staring at his laptop screen in unbelief.
"Fourteen hundred dollars?!? Where am I going to get fourteen hundred dollars? This stupid software was supposed to make sure you got a big fat refund on your taxes not a giant bill!"
"What if I just... fudged some of the numbers a bit?", he thought out loud. Jerry glanced around to see if his wife or kids had heard him. No? Good. They usually avoided him while he was doing taxes or paying the bills because he got so irritable.
Hmmm... lower the income levels or raise the taxes paid? No, too obvious. The numbers wouldn't match the W-2. How about his deductions? Hmmm. Maybe the wife had dropped some extra money in the collection tray at church when he wasn't looking. Yeah... that would shift things in his favor a bit.
With a few clicks Jerry adjusted various numbers in his return until he was receiving a small refund. A few more clicks and he was on the "transmit to the IRS" page.
Jerry sat staring at his laptop screen. He was about to lie on his taxes. "It's only a few hundred dollars." he thought to himself. "The Feds will never notice it. It's not like I'm Bernie Madoff ripping off people for millions."
Jerry sat thinking for another few moments and then reached for the mouse...
It's right around the corner and it's a day many Americans either dread or revile. Tax Day has become a symbol of the bumbling and inept bureaucracy (or evil and corrupt if that other party is in power) that is our Federal government. Last year, Pew Research estimated that 1.6 million Americans would cheat on their taxes.(1) It seems that tax fraud is becoming more frequent and (unfortunately) more acceptable. During a 2011 trial, a taxpayer, accused of failing to report all of his income, was quoted as saying that "it's like running a red light or going over the speed limit. You do things you shouldn't while you can."(2)
As Tax Day approaches yet again, millions of Americans (many of them believers) will be faced with a choice: lie for monetary gain or tell the truth and pay up.
Some, like attorney Thomas Shearman, will blame the system:
"Any tax is bad, which can be easily evaded by fraud or falsehood, and is therefore paid only by the honest and truthful. . . . Any tax is bad, which corrupts the morals of the people or which necessarily brings into existence a class [for example lobbyists] which finds its profit in promoting wastefulness and extravagance in public affairs."
The system, however, is merely a thing: it cannot choose to do right or wrong. Only people can choose:
1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
2: an unimpaired condition : soundness
3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness
The word "integrity" speaks to a wholeness or completeness that is reflected in the greatest commandment:
Moses tells us we should choose G-d's ways in everything we do... at every time and in every circumstance.
The book of Job relates the great loss, affliction, sorrow, and suffering of a man tested to the extreme. Most of us will never face the circumstances that Job did and yet, after Satan had afflicted Job by taking all of his wealth and killing all of his children, G-d described Job this way:
Integrity before G-d means that we are active and diligent in our thinking, our choices, and our behaviors. In the midst of Job's loss and suffering, he never relinquished his undivided love, service, and faithfulness to G-d.
We are faced with moral and ethical decisions every day. Some of them are big and some of them are small. Should I tell the truth? Should I look at this? Should I do that? Should I take this? Should I? Should I? Should I?
What's the answer? What should we do? How do we choose?
In ancient times people offered animal sacrifices to G-d when they sinned and made mistakes but King Solomon writes
This is echoed in the words of the prophet Isaiah:
The LORD desires justice and righteous living. It's not an easy path to follow. Perhaps, like Job, there will be a book written about our lives and our choices. Perhaps, like Job, we will also be called righteous (Ezekiel 14:20).
We all stumble in our walk with G-d. It is destiny of mankind in this fallen world. But even in our stumbling there is good news! In Proverbs 24:16, King Solomon wrote, "A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again...".
When (not if but when) we stumble and fall, we shouldn't lie to ourselves and pretend we aren't sinning.
Rather we should confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), acknowledge that Messiah is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30) and rise again to walk with Him.
"Lie" can be both a noun and a verb. "Bobby told a lie." (noun) or "Bobby lied about his age." (verb)
"Truth" is only a noun. You have to do something with the truth: tell the truth, speak the truth, reveal the truth, share the truth, etc. This is [ahem] true in most languages... pardon the pun.
G-d has given us the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life... but we must choose to do something with the Truth we have been given. First, we should trust in Him like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Rahab- all the great men and women of faith listed in Hebrews chapter 11. Second, we should rely upon His sovereignty, greatness, and provision in all circumstances. Third, we should daily... hourly... surrender our lives and align our choices to serve and honor Him.
Recall the exhortation of Joshua:
So... what was the point of all this?
In tax season (and in every season) may your walk with G-d begin with integrity.
(1)~Taken 4/6/2013 from http://www.statisticbrain.com/how-many-people-cheat-on-taxes/
(2)~Perry W. Browning v. Commissioner, TC Memo 2011-261
(3)~Thomas Shearman, taken 4/6/2013 from http://www.taxcheating.org/