Quick! Tell me what this blurry chart means to you?
By the numbers of those surveyed, it’s clear that most believe companies and wealthy people don’t pay their fair share when it comes to taxes. By the survey it’s also obvious that individuals and the poor believe they are paying their fair share – “the poor stay poor and the rich get richer”. The challenge with thinking, speaking and acting out about this is that it’s quite possibly keeping people poor in unexpected ways.
It’s powerful and exhilarating to judge others. Especially, when we feel we are at a disadvantage with the complexity of the tax system. If you took all the tax laws on a bookshelf they would, at over 74,000 pages long, measure about 30 feet wide. Not only is this VERY confusing but, also seems to grow each year. And, it fuels a robust financial services industry to handle all the new tax laws.
Between confusion and feeling disadvantaged, it’s easy to dislike the tax collector and those that get away with what we believe is unfair. When we feel this way, the propensity is to lash out and make it the topic of conversation which often turns to heated debate. This human behavior is exactly what the Pharisees tried to play on when attempting sway popular opinion of Jesus.
They asked Jesus if it was right to pay taxes and they thought they had Him cornered no matter how He answered. If He answered:
- “Pay the taxes” they knew it would turn the common people and the zealots against him and if He said:
- “Don’t pay the taxes” then the agents of the King would know that He was rousing a rebellion and they would arrest Him.
The answer Jesus gave amazed the Pharisees because they expected Him to reject the taxes. But, the answer also has amazing depth. His reply was: Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Not only did it satisfy the legal question of paying taxes but, it points out that:
- Caesar already owns the taxes that he demands and
- Implies that God already owns what He commands us to give Him.
At the time, the face of Caesar appeared on the coins. So, they are Caesar’s. And, give back to God what is His because He is our creator. So, we are to give our soul to God.
Having the luxury of being removed from the situation Jesus faced, His answer is pretty simple and straight forward. But, I can only imagine how easy it would have been to take a side and act out not fully understanding the accusations against Him.
There is an old salesman’s saying: Confused people don’t buy. The question this rouses in my mind is: True but, do confused people buy-in? In other words, does confusion make it easy for people to buy into the charges pressed against something unfair; even if it is of no real consequence to us as individuals?
Someone may not buy a product or service because to them it may be obvious that it’s not fair on some level. But, then some will finger point. Pointing out to others how wrong something was or how much of a rip-off someone was. Making an issue of it may be intended to protect others but, does it REALLY protect them and us?
Reflecting on a personal experience, I admit that I’m not innocent of finger pointing. An old teacher once told me when we point our finger at someone else we have three pointing back at us. Of course, being the smart ass kid I was, I quickly pointed all five at her.
I knew I was pointing out something that was clearly unjust. And so, my finger pointing was VERY warranted in my mind’s eye. As a result I had no intention of listening to someone tell me how it was. I was the one who was going to say how it was.
But, I now see how her wisdom would have served a punk like me had I simply listened. I was filled with self-righteous indignation and it only served to hurt me more. Not only did I lose out on my own personal growth but it almost landed me a Ritalin prescription.
I wasn’t buying it. But, confusion over what was really more important caused me to buy in to the injustice I saw. I bought into it because judgement set in. When my judgement set in, three very destructive forces started their work in me.
I became myopic, disabled and incapacitated. When we buy into self-righteous indignation over the unfair tax system these three things become clear:
- When we focus on other’s we are blind to ourselves. We develop myopia and cannot see our own shortcomings. We become unable to measure where we stand with our own finances.
- When we don’t have a clear picture of where we stand, we, in essence, lose the ability to practice our own disciplines. Unable to measure or take stock in our present financial condition we become disabled. We become disabled because there are no clear steps forward.
- And, when we are unable to take steps forward we become incapacitated. We lose the capacity for our very own financial improvement.
On a more obvious point, we lose time and energy spent focusing on something we cannot control. The tragedy is the destructive stronghold this behavior has. The silver lining is that we have a choice. We can control ourselves.
The Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus with flattery. In turn, they were setting up a trap for the common people. By baiting them to buy in to something that had little to do with their own prosperity in the end.
Fast forward to present day and the game that traps us hasn’t changed. Fortunately, neither have the rules. If we’re distracted by taking the time to shame someone else, the only accomplishment is our own suffering because it prevents us from focusing on our own best decisions.
Dr. Harrington (Businessperson and author) may have said it best by summarizing: “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”
When we stay focused on our own finances – we can measure, control and improve ourselves in that area. The big picture becomes a better world for us all. Because, in this process, we experience prosperity and we tend to attract others who want what we have. You can be the spark that starts another on their own journey to financial success and that goodwill gets paid forward.
Jesus did not condone the corruption but, he still paid taxes. His steadfastness sparked goodwill with tax collectors of the day like Zacchaeus and Mathew who became instrumental to us all.
Zacchaeus declared to restore fourfold what he had received unjustly and give half his wealth to the poor. And, Matthew wrote one the four gospels that account for Jesus’ walk on earth which has touched the lives of countless people.
Self-righteous indignation is a powerful and exhilarating emotion. An emotion that comes at a high cost. It’s not so much the “Unfair” tax system that keeps us down. It’s our own choice to be distracted with someone else’s business.
We can break out of the oppression of being looped into something that really has nothing to do with our own prosperity by maintaining focus on understanding our own finances. This gives us the ability to take the steps needed to move us in the right direction so we are fully capable of a financially prosperous future.
Let’s talk! Do you think unfair taxes hurt your chances for prosperity?
No one knows your money like “U”!
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Life is, at times unfair. It is a certainty that when we obsess over what others "have" and what we "don't have" and who or what is to blame we diminish our capacity to affect "what we might have." It in effect paralyzes us from effectively accessing our own situation and acting on its behalf in a productive way. "Affect that which you can affect." In other words.....take care of "your" side of the street!