We didn’t intend to cheat the government. We took the word of others instead of checking facts ourselves. We assume, naively, that our good intentions meant we had right on our side.
Well. Not much good ever comes of assuming things. Refusing to look for the fact of the matter is a lot like burying your head in the sand – it leaves one’s opposite end open for swift kicks.
We could have let things slip. The government may never have known. But something bothered me. So I set aside an evening, took a deep breath, opened my computer to do some research. It’s complicated, so I won’t go into detail, but what I found confirmed it: in the eyes of the law, we’re out of bounds.
I opened my bible too. Jesus had strong opinions on money matters. On one occasion, when asked about paying taxes, he held a coin out and asked whose image it bore. “Caesar’s,” someone answered.
“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” he replied, “and to God, what is God’s.” Turns out, more belongs to Caesar than most of us know. So after a few weeks of squirming, then calculating, then squirming more, we reported ourselves.
We don’t expect mercy, and I doubt we’ll get it.
As I write, we wait to hear the government’s verdict. I have nightmares of Scroogey-looking officials (in stovepipe hats, black suits and pinstripe ties) knocking on our front door. They carry ledgers and sharp pencils and whips to evict us. They throw our tin bucket at our fleeing backs and taunt, “Take it. You’ll need it for begging on the street corners.”
I flog myself. Honestly! What were we thinking? Will they put us in stocks? Will they seize my favourite costume jewelry? The Preacher’s eagle collection? The parrot! Oh, yes. We’ll offer them Ernie. But the cat comes along to debtor’s prison.
“Oh, bother,” I complained as I dried our dishes one evening. “I hate this. I’d rather suffer for doing right than wrong.”
The Preacher grimaced, weary of my gloomy monologues. “I know.” The irony has caught us up short. We’ve survived dozens of tax seasons without pain. In all the years we’ve dealt with the taxman, we’ve never made a misstep. Until now.
Maybe things won’t be as bad as I dread. I tend to be a bit of a pessimist, my family reminds me. But I know the facts now. Life could get harder for awhile.
As is our habit, this morning we held hands to pray over our day. And suddenly God blew perspective like sweet oxygen into my mind and spirit.
“Hon,” I said. “We could lose much, but not the “us” in us.” He gave a slow nod. “Nor God’s love, nor his forgiveness. Not anything that matters most in life and love and faith.” If the worst is really the worst – at least we can keep all that. Along with the tin bucket in the garage. We’ll be just fine.