Tax day and the sacred

In honor of tax day in the United States, I’ve reached into the Generous Matters archives and pulled out an article with an IRS theme .

office_calendar_april_15_400_clr_1743Other than my accountant, I don’t know many folks who get their jollies from filling out tax forms. And treating our annual shout out to the IRS as an opportunity for stewardship reflection and tax forms as sacred texts? Well, those are new ideas for me.

But think about it. Behind the numbers in those little boxes on your tax form are stories of another year of God’s good blessings — to and through you. When viewed through the eyes of faith, tax documents become a stewardship bullet point presentation of your life of faith over the last year.

So writes Pastor Dan Mesaros in a lovely post on Luther Seminary’s “Christian Stewardship for the 21st Century” website. The good reverend’s words, which were first heard by his church council, are the perfect antidote to tax time grumpiness.

Here’s the short-form version of Mesaros’ filing

As I dug through my statements, the line items beckoned. . . They stopped becoming about money and started to reflect relationships, events and important things in my life.

I found the gift we made to the Lutheran Disaster Response for the Joplin tornado. I had long forgotten this disaster, but the people of the Missouri communities impacted have not. They are still struggling. Am I still helping? Am I still praying? Along with this, there are the Christmas and anniversary gifts. We gave money for a scholarship in Ihemi, Tanzania instead of gifts to each other.

Tax time stopped becoming the dreaded accounting process and became a time to reflect and re-evaluate on the past year. It transformed me.

Looking at it now, I ask what is God calling for the upcoming year? I suggest this year we sit down and make it a picture book of your last year’s receipts and ask what God is calling you to do.  If budgets are moral documents (as Jim Wallis has said), then spending reflects our values.

Perhaps we could make tax time a ritual and tradition, a special event. Cook a nice meal and celebrate with your kids the present you bought them or fondly recall the dinner with friends. This is truly a holistic view of stewardship. Where did we spend our time? How did we foster our relationships? When did we reach out?

A renewed spirit of gratitude from doing your taxes — I can’t think of a better refund than that.

More on this topic:

Giving is a lousy wealth building strategy

As tax time approaches, be glad you’re not the IRS

What's your take on this topic?

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