Begin With Integrity

06 April 2013

iStock 000020977795Small 300Jerry sat staring at his laptop screen in unbelief.

"Fourteen hundred dollars?!? Where am I going to get fourteen hundred dollars?  This stupid software was supposed to make sure you got a big fat refund on your taxes not a giant bill!"

"What if I just... fudged some of the numbers a bit?", he thought out loud.  Jerry glanced around to see if his wife or kids had heard him.  No?  Good.  They usually avoided him while he was doing taxes or paying the bills because he got so irritable.

Hmmm... lower the income levels or raise the taxes paid?  No, too obvious.  The numbers wouldn't match the W-2.  How about his deductions?  Hmmm.  Maybe the wife had dropped some extra money in the collection tray at church when he wasn't looking. Yeah... that would shift things in his favor a bit.

With a few clicks Jerry adjusted various numbers in his return until he was receiving a small refund.  A few more clicks and he was on the "transmit to the IRS" page.

Jerry sat staring at his laptop screen.  He was about to lie on his taxes.  "It's only a few hundred dollars." he thought to himself.  "The Feds will never notice it.  It's not like I'm Bernie Madoff ripping off people for millions."

Jerry sat thinking for another few moments and then reached for the mouse...


April 15th

Tax Day.

It's right around the corner and it's a day many Americans either dread or revile.  Tax Day has become a symbol of the bumbling and inept bureaucracy (or evil and corrupt if that other party is in power) that is our Federal government.  Last year, Pew Research estimated that 1.6 million Americans would cheat on their taxes.1  It seems that tax fraud is becoming more frequent and (unfortunately) more acceptable.  During a 2011 trial, a taxpayer, accused of failing to report all of his income, was quoted as saying that "it's like running a red light or going over the speed limit. You do things you shouldn't while you can."2

As Tax Day approaches yet again, millions of Americans (many of them believers) will be faced with a choice: lie for monetary gain or tell the truth and pay up.

Some, like attorney Thomas Shearman, will blame the system:

"Any tax is bad, which can be easily evaded by fraud or falsehood, and is therefore paid only by the honest and truthful. . . . Any tax is bad, which corrupts the morals of the people or which necessarily brings into existence a class [for example lobbyists] which finds its profit in promoting wastefulness and extravagance in public affairs."3

 

The system, however, is merely a thing: it cannot choose to do right or wrong.  Only people can choose:

Then Jesus said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's."  (Matthew 22:21)

 

Integrity

in·teg·ri·ty noun

1: firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
2: an unimpaired condition : soundness
3: the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

 

The word "integrity" speaks to a wholeness or completeness that is reflected in the greatest commandment:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  (Deuteronomy 6:5)

 

Moses tells us we should choose G-d's ways in everything we do... at every time and in every circumstance. 

The book of Job relates the great loss, affliction, sorrow, and suffering of a man tested to the extreme.  Most of us will never face the circumstances that Job did and yet, after Satan had afflicted Job by taking all of his wealth and killing all of his children, G-d described Job this way:

"Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause."  (Job 2:3)

 

Integrity before G-d means that we are active and diligent in our thinking, our choices, and our behaviors.  In the midst of Job's loss and suffering, he never relinquished his undivided love, service, and faithfulness to G-d.

 

Righteousness

We are faced with moral and ethical decisions every day.  Some of them are big and some of them are small.  Should I tell the truth?  Should I look at this?  Should I do that?  Should I take this?  Should I?  Should I?  Should I?

What's the answer?  What should we do?  How do we choose? 

In ancient times people offered animal sacrifices to G-d when they made mistakes but King Solomon writes

To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:3)

 

This is echoed in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Thus says the LORD, "Preserve justice and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come And My righteousness to be revealed."  (Isaiah 56:1)

 

The LORD desires justice and righteous living and it's not an easy path to follow.  Perhaps, like Job, there will be a book written about our lives and our choices.  Perhaps, like Job, we will also be called righteous (Ezekiel 14:20).

We all stumble in our walk with G-d.  It is fate of mankind in this fallen world.  But even in our stumbling there is good news!  In Proverbs 24:16, King Solomon wrote, "A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again...".

When (not if but when) we stumble and fall, we shouldn't lie to ourselves and pretend we aren't sinning.

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  (1 John 1:8)

 

Rather we should confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), acknowledge that Messiah is our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30) and rise again to walk with Him.

 

Truth

"Lie" can be both a noun and a verb.  "Bobby told a lie." (noun) or "Bobby lied about his age." (verb)

"Truth" is only a noun.  You have to do something with the truth: tell the truth, speak the truth, reveal the truth, share the truth, etc.  This is the case in most languages.

G-d has given us the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life... but we must choose to do something with the Truth we have been given.  First, we should trust in Him like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Rahab- all the great men and women of faith listed in Hebrews chapter 11.  Second, we should rely upon His sovereignty, greatness, and provision in all circumstances.  Third, we should daily... hourly... surrender our lives and align our choices to serve and honor Him.

Recall the exhortation of Joshua:

...choose for yourselves today whom you will serve... but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.  (Joshua 24:15)

 

So... what was the point of all this?

O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill?  He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart.  (Psalm 15:1-2)

 

In tax season (and in every season) may your walk with G-d begin with integrity.

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Footnotes

1. Taken 4/6/2013 from http://www.statisticbrain.com/how-many-people-cheat-on-taxes/  [back]
2. Perry W. Browning v. Commissioner, TC Memo 2011-261 [back]
3. Thomas Shearman, taken 4/6/2013 from http://www.taxcheating.org/ [back]

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