Death and Taxes

The saying you know. “There is nothing certain in this world – only death and taxes.” Having just celebrated yet another birthday in the sixties, getting ever closer to the closer and every month paying the government the tax on my wages and that of my employees, I am trapped in the reality of certainty.

It is inexorable. There is nothing I can do to escape either. No magic pill and no accountant with Mandrake-like qualities can realise an escape hatch for me. Even religion leaves me without any sort of verifiable hope that there is an out. All of them have some ’if’ clause in them. If you do this, live this, pray this, walk this, suffer this, then maybe (no certainty) you’ll get pie in the sky when you die. This is at best unsatisfying and at worst, depressing in the extreme. “Pay your dues or else,” makes for a hard God or set of gods.

Which is why a small episode in the life of the wandering Jewish teacher we call Jesus has that hint of variance in it which sparks imagination and excitement.

One of his disciples is asked if Jesus pays the two days’ wages for the Jewish religion’s temple tax which was collected every year. This helped fund their religious structure: buildings, priests, ongoing expenses.

Sound familiar? Jesus’ disciple gives an affirmative answer, and later at home, there is discussion about that very issue. Jesus asks Simon, “What do you think, from whom do the kings of the earth take tribute? From their sons or from others?”

Simon answers, “From others.” Jesus says to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and takes the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel; take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.”

This, to me, is Jesus saying, “Let them have their observances for the moment, but let’s hang a ‘Gone Fishing’ sign over it for the future.” What if that has become the reality? That the struggle each of us has in paying any religious price that will quell fear, engender peace, rest our spirits, has been paid?

Is Jesus saying by this act, that he will provide the price if only we will hang that ‘Gone Fishing’ sign on our religious door. To me, it’s an opening, that if we take his words and relax, instead of stress about it all and let a living, now relationship with him take the place of religious observance, it is the end of our so-called human certainty about the inevitable and a new understanding of what it means to be spiritually aware and awake.

A footnote if you please. As a Christian, I have enjoyed the friendship of many ‘Gone Fishing’ people around the world. Some of it in church buildings. The practice of a Christian religion with all its structures, rules, parliaments and administrations is often (regrettably) far away from the freedom and the liberty of actual belief in the person of Jesus and the sharing of that with others in or outside a ‘church’ building. What I hope for is a less religious, and a more relational approach in our spiritual lives.

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