“After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up, left everything, and followed him.” – Luke 5:27-32
The W-2 forms are filling up the mailboxes. The IRS is on its way to its annual collection – and we are on our way to our annual grumpy submission. I happen to love paying taxes, as I think they are the best way to redistribute wealth. I know I am weird.
Before I explain why I love taxes, let me explain my problem with people who hate them. When we hate taxes, we move deep into the land of individualism. That land is dry and dull – but much of our cultural economy likes the neighborhood. The next stop on the train to the land of individualism is loneliness. Again, many like to live there. Some move back to the human race when their loneliness turns to that bitter complaint, “It is all up to me.” That cry of anguish comes straight from the decision to hate taxes.
We are watching an unprecedented unraveling of the social safety net. Security is no longer social; it is individual. It is all up to you, when the social safety net unravels. For those of you who can make it on your own, hoorah. For those of us who can’t – the lame, the blind, the unlucky, the weak, the 200’s on the SAT – hoorah as well. At least we aren’t lonely. At least we are weird enough to like taxes and help each other.
O God, when we are like Levi and invited by you to let go of our individual security on behalf of something more beautiful and fun, help us to say yes. Amen.
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.