Recently, I got into a debate with friends about the rationale behind taxation, while being treated to a sumptuous meal. A good meal has a way of bringing to mind the God of creation when we remember that so many people do not have three square meals daily.
As a seminarian, my confrère had an almanac in his room, with the picture of an African lad, challenging God to make good the promise of his Son – Jesus Christ – in the Our Father prayer – "give us this day our daily bread." He says to God, with an outstretched arm: "You promised me my daily bread, give it to me now."
Where is God when some people go hungry and others suffer from obesity? Perhaps, we need to ask ourselves, first, what we are not doing right.
When the tax season arrives, the storyline, more often than not, is: Why do I have to give the government my hard-earned dollars? Typically, one does not ask, what kind of human being am I when I keep to myself what God has given to me for safekeeping?
With the title of "custodian of creation" (Genesis 1.28) comes the responsibility to care for creation. The God of creation makes himself visible in his creation, although many people do not seem to realize it. Do we realize that the image and presence of God is the human person? Humanness is premised on the ethics of sharing or solidarity.
The tax resistance group promotes the "Esauic" argument in the book of Genesis, when Esau asked God: "Am I my brother's keeper?" (Genesis 4.9). Another name for tax evasion is egoism.
To see the God of creation is to notice the presence of the human person. To be human is to share: "I was hungry and you gave me to eat. . . . I was sick and you took care of me" (Matthew 25.35-36). To take care of creation is to be liberal in giving.
The theory of "hard-earned dollars" begs to disagree, because there are some who laze around or are in search of welfare instead of hard labour. Does it occur to us that all the fingers of the hand are unequal for a reason? The producer needs the consumer; the genius needs the average guy. To see only the negative is to forget solidarity.
To zero in on faults is to miss the opportunity to be part of the solution. "Come to me all who labour and are burdened" (Matthew 11.28) is not an invitation to live on welfare, but a call to the dignity of labour. The wisdom of life reveals the dignity of hard work.
On the contrary, the abuse of every system is a revelation of the absence of wisdom. Foolishness plays out in two ways: the celebration of laziness and the greed that impedes sharing the fruits of one's labour. The challenge of life is the ability to imitate God who allows his rain to fall on the good and the bad alike (Matthew 5.45).
The New Evangelization called for by the Holy Father is an invitation to a reflective moment: What are we doing when we do the things that we do as Western Christians? For instance, what is the Christian foundation for taxes? The Christian foundation of Western societies inscribed Christian values into economic-socio-political structures.
The contemporary Western amnesia of its Christian roots underpins the New Evangelization. The Christian corporal and spiritual works of mercy, an offshoot of which is taxation, wear a divine face on democratic societies, or should I say societies on the way to democracy.
Although a fervent Jew, Paul realized the universality of brotherhood and sisterhood of all when, on the road to Damascus, he posed the question, "Who are you, Lord?" and was given the answer; "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" (Acts 9.5).
Nature, when observed keenly, teaches us about our inter-connectivity, not only when we have Paul's kind of encounter with Christ.
That creation is bound together – humans, animals, plants and all – is obvious, in simple form, in the food chain. Human solidarity orders human destiny together – I save my self and others when I factor them into my decisions.
When I neglect others, I deny my humanness. What goes around comes around. As humans, we stand together; as humans, we fall together. May our taxes help us to stand together to celebrate our humanness.
Spiritan Father Ayodele Ayeni is a sessional lecturer at Newman Theological College and pastor of Mary Help of Christians (Chinese) Parish in Edmonton.