Give and take?

This morning, I pulled up to a Cadillac bumper plastered with stickers decrying the “socialist” government in Washington. One read: “The problem with socialism is you eventually run out of other people’s money.”

I hate to sound like a civics teacher, but any money the U.S. government has or ever will have is collectively “somebody else’s money.” Lincoln described our nation as “government of the people, by the people,  for the people.” And, like it or not, we the people pay to run our government with taxes as provided for in the U.S. Constitution.

Article I section VIII states that  “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

Yet, we love to hate taxes. We want good roads and free-flowing traffic, but we don’t want the bill. We demand law and order, but we complain about the cost of paying policemen and building prisons. We want fast ambulance service when we need it, but we insist lawmakers cut the very taxes that pay for it.

Where did we get the idea that we can enjoy the collective benefits of community and pay ala carte?

It may come as a shock, but Jesus paid his taxes. When someone questioned whether they should pay Caesar tribute, a sum of money, Jesus didn’t encourage a Tea Party rebellion. He said to give Caesar what was his. Mark 12:17

At the heart of tax grumbling is selfishness: less money for taxes theoretically means more money for me. In reality, to borrow a sound bite from the Reagan era,  there is no free lunch.

With fewer tax dollars to distribute in a tough economy, governments at every level are facing massive budget shortfalls. The remaining expenses are headed to every mailbox in America in the form of higher fees-for-service.

The bill already arrived at our house as letters from desperate boosters.  My daughter’s choral performances are threatened by less money to buy sheet music and rent concert halls. At a son’s school, we are being encouraged to buy a nearly $200 family athletics pass because Wake County no longer will pay to water, seed and fertilize athletic fields or provide sports medicine kits and several other things necessary to field athletics.

If we want education with some arts and athletics thrown in, we’re being asked to pay for it. At schools where parents won’t or can’t pay, these things likely will become a memory.

No one is thrilled to pay taxes, but it’s biblical to pay what’s due. Want lower taxes? Expect less. Accept fewer services, more potholes, longer lines, shorter hours. We have no right to ask more from our government than we are willing to invest.

After all, the Bible says: “Give, and it will be given…. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)

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