Brothers and Sisters,
I sat down this afternoon to address the Davis family’s tax filing for this year. The world may be reeling from a pandemic virus, but taxes don’t go away! That’s actually something we can be thankful for – a government that is still functioning, still providing services, and still requiring taxes of us (even if we may not enjoy all the ramifications of the prevailing tax policy…and no, that’s not a hint as to my personal politics). As I’ve thought about taxes this evening, I find Matthew 17:24-27 coming to mind. Here it is in the New American Standard Bible (NASB):
“When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, ‘What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?’ When Peter said, ‘From strangers,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Then the sons are exempt. However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.’”
Now, there’s a great deal happening in these few verses – much that is cultural, much that is deeply theological, all of which pertains to the Gospel. For tonight though, I only want to point us to the reality of “sons” vs. “strangers.” Why do you and I pay taxes each year (Note: Just for accuracy’s sake, our reality of income, or social security, or Medicare taxes is different than the sort of taxes to which Jesus alludes in this passage)? Beyond all the requirements of law, civic responsibility, and even duty, we pay taxes because, fundamentally, we are strangers on this earth. Or, to change the metaphor, no one pays to sleep in their own bed, but a hotel will charge you by the night. In short, the fact that we pay to live in our world ought to remind us that we’re not home yet!
We’re not home yet, but home is coming. For followers of Jesus Christ, Christians, home is what Jesus speaks of in John 14:1-3 (NASB):
“Do not let your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
Home is heaven. Home is the new heaven and the new earth, the new Jerusalem (Revelation 21:1, 10). Home is face-to-face with Jesus Christ, in the presence of God, unhindered by any vestige of sin. Home is the place of which God himself declares: “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Revelation 21:3b-4, NASB).
When we get home, April 15th (or July 15th) will cease to have any meaning, and the Great Coronavirus Plague of 2020 will simply be part of the historical backdrop against which the saints of God sing his praises. Until we make it home safely, kept by Jesus, let’s persevere well, even through death and taxes.