The Ruler(s) of My Life (Taxation and Christian Philosophy)

Oct 19, 2014
(Reflection of Jeff Liando at St John's Presbyterian Church service 19 Oct 2014 , Wellington New Zealand)
Bible Readings: Isaiah 45:1-7 and Matthew 22:15-22

Good morning, selamat pagi.

If I were a Jew and one of the Pharisees, I would have asked again, why pay taxes to non Jewish ruler? Why Cyrus, a non Jew, is anointed by the God of Israel? In reality, I’m an Indonesian and never ask IRD why they tax me or my ministers why I am an Elder now.

From the story about paying taxes to Caesar, I've found the most common interpretation of the story, that Jesus is trying to distinguish between duties to Caesar’s and God’s Kingdom, between government and church. I understand that tax is a tool used by government to raise money in order to perform their jobs in making a better country. However, I know that some conservative views may think that a better country can be established by us privately, with less tax and government intervention. Is God a conservative?

More than the issue of secular versus church or progressive versus conservative, I see three personal points that may face me from this topic.
Firstly, the ruler of my life. Who or what has power over me? God or something else?
Secondly, the options of worldly and godly attitudes. Towards family, church, career, hobbies, relationship, colleagues, community, and so on.
Thirdly, the solution of pursuing both worldly and godly matters simultaneously. Does it work? Is it OK?

As Jesus asked whose head in the coin, I ask myself, who is ruling my life? Do I have more than one dominant power over me? If there are two rulers, then it’s not easy to perform my duties to both sides at the same time. There’s a double tax agreement between New Zealand and Indonesia so, fortunately, I don’t have to pay taxes twice for one income. A few months ago, when I worked for both sides at the same time I paid my taxes separately for each income. Answering to my own question, I always justify with a classic answer that the rulers of my life are God, family and career. Somehow, I feel they are manageable and can be treated separately.

Nevertheless, when it comes to choosing the worldly and godly attitudes, everything seems problematic and not consistent. There are nights with prayers with the children, there are nights without prayers. There are workdays started with prayers, and there are not. Sometimes I confess my mistakes, sometimes I defend and even hide them. I could love my enemies but it’s easier to love my friends. There are chances I use to forgive but sometimes I use them to get revenge. I go to church most Sundays. However, there are Sundays I play badminton with my friends. I consider all missing godly attitudes are just my ignorance, but I do realise they show my disobedience to God.

When I see the reality I find that the previous problematics are actually justifiable and understandable. Perhaps it’s like the concept of tax return on charity when we can shift our unintended duty to good intention. God wants me to believe only He provides all my needs, but I say my work provides my needs and God bless me through my job. God wants me to only serve Him, but I say I can pursue my career, seek wealth, take care of my family and serve God at the same time.

It seems the worldly and godly matters are not in the same scope. If one is in the scope, the other should be out of scope. An Australian client cannot be invoiced with GST for a service provided by a New Zealand company. If I belong to God, can I perform my worldly duty to Him? Or, if I’m at a professional symposium, can I discuss something godly with my colleagues? If I’m holidaying in Queenstown on Sunday should I schedule to go to church first or just enjoy my holiday all day?

I think my initial classic answer of God, family and career becomes obsolete. My answer now is that the ruler of my life is only God Almighty. With this, I can feel His power given to me. I can feel I am His instrument. Like Cyrus the Great, a King of Persian, conquered Mesopotamia and freed the Jews from Babylon to return to Jerusalem. I will have a full control of my life. I believe God will increase everything I have. I will experience His salvation through Jesus Christ. I will move on, forward and upward, stage by stage without interruption. In any given day each of my steps will be full of God’s love, peace, grace and hope.

Do you think God Almighty is the one and only ruler of our life?

Tuhan berkati. Amin.

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