APRIL in the United States is the month during which the deadline ar rives for settling last year's income tax. Other countries have different dates for tax settlement and, whenever the time comes, it probably isn't greeted with a great deal of joy anywhere. According to statistics prepared by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Develop ment, Americans pay a higher dollar amount in taxes than any of the other member countries except Sweden. So, if the size of payment makes taxpaying more traumatic, this is a difficult time of year for those who pay American in come taxes. However, paying taxes isn't so bad if you consider the alterna tives—no police or fire protection, no highway building or upkeep, no na tional standards or regulations on in terstate commerce—the list could go on and on. Even though both tax paying and reporting are a hassle, when it comes right down to it, I don't really mind paying taxes.
What does bother me, though, is when I hear of multimillionaires who, in spite of their huge incomes, don't pay as much tax as I do on a small salary. Just the other day I learned about a well-known sports empire that avoids paying taxes because of the massive depreciation they write off on their high-salaried players. It is also disconcerting to learn that sometimes small taxpayers are more likely to be targeted for collection of delinquent accounts than those who owe millions (Reader's Digest, January, 1977, p. 89). Actually, the rest of us have to pay extra for every instance that someone gets away with not paying his fair share in taxes.
As I was thinking about this, the thought struck me, What about our church finances? We may pay our taxes from a sense of duty, or even from a sense of appreciation for services ren dered. But that which we give to the Lord is a love offering, and it's a thrill to be able to share the blessings He so richly bestows on us with a world that desperately needs the gospel message.
When we as church members cheer fully give our tithes and offerings through church channels, however, we have a right to expect two things:
First, we have a right to expect that those who are supported by our tithes and offerings give full and efficient service for their support. The minister, needless to say, should set the example in this respect for all other church workers. And, incidentally, his very position demands of him that he pay a faithful tithe himself, as well as liber ally supporting the work of the church with his offerings.
Right here may I point out that the majority of our ministers around the world actually never personally give their tithe to the Lord. Their tithe is taken out by their employing organiza tions. This is a situation that demands serious restudy by our treasurers. How can a minister preach with conviction about the importance and blessings of giving tithe to the Lord while neither he nor his wife now have the actual ex perience of handling their tithe, placing it in an envelope, and giving it as an act of worship in any church service? It has not been a significant part of their spirit ual activities. It seems to me that this system can and should be changed.
Included in the worker's fiscal re sponsibility, of course, is the necessity to be scrupulously honest in reporting and in avoiding any unnecessary travel or expense that might be taken merely to add to his personal income. There should be no unnecessary junketing among Adventist workers.
Second, we have a right to expect that those who administer church finances do so within the priorities established by the Lord. I am personally acquainted with many of the men and women who handle these funds. They are fine, con secrated individuals, trying to accom plish the impossible with what there is on hand. But if I read the Spirit of Prophecy correctly, the Lord expects us to be a lot more aggressive evangelistically and, perhaps, less so institutionally.
With the same sort of sigh I felt in wardly as I wondered about how much we might save on income taxes if every one paid a fair tax and the funds were all used properly, I also yearn for what might happen if every Adventist were faithful in tithes and offerings. I'm sure you have read the statement many times: "If every church member were imbued with the spirit of self-sacrifice, there would be no lack of funds for home and foreign missions." Counsels on Stewardship, p. 37. Haven't you, as you read this, exclaimed half aloud, "Wouldn't that be great? No more fundraising drives and campaigns would be necessary!"
There are so many possibilities today that seem like impossibilities due to lack of funds. But in the light of what the Lord tells us, there is no shortage among Adventists: "He has provided His people with a surplus of means, that when He calls for help, they may cheer fully respond. If they will be faithful in bringing to His treasury the means lent them, His work will make rapid ad vancement. Many souls will be won to the truth, and the day of Christ's coming will be hastened." —Ibid., p. 45. (Italics supplied.)
Tax paying is our duty as citizens. But tithe paying, offering giving, and honest use of the Lord's money are all part of the loving, consecrated service of those called to minister in Christ's stead.
L. R. V. D.