What have taxes ever done for us?

‘Creationtide’ or the ‘Season of Creation’ is the period in the annual church calendar, from 1st September to 4th October, dedicated to God as Creator and Sustainer of all life. It is a time that encompasses many harvest festivals in our region and ends with the feast of St Francis of Assisi. As Christians, we acknowledge that the environment is our common home, and we need to tread more gently on the earth and care for our shared planet. This is a special time for us to recall our relationship with the Earth and the Holy.

For Creationtide 2017, Eco Church South West has produced a series of prayers and short reflections on the theme of ‘Inspiring Earth’. You can sign up to a daily email with ideas and resources each morning between the 1st September and the 4th October. I have written the following reflection on paying taxes (!) and the common good for 21st September, and publish it now to encourage you to join in.

Bible Reading: The Calling of Matthew

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him.

And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’

– – Matthew 9:9-13, New Revised Standard Version


What have taxes ever done for us? Well, in the UK, they underpin much of the common good. They fund the NHS, schools, the welfare state safety net, the police, bin collections, and basic scientific research. Even in a market economy, businesses couldn’t operate without an educated workforce or a transport network.

But we might add that the tax system itself can be a common good. A progressive tax system helps to deliver income equality, and according to Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in “The Spirit Level”, more equal societies are better for life expectancy to mental illness, violence to illiteracy. When we pay tax, we care for our society, we act out our citizenship, and we root ourselves in our place.

It is not perfect, though. So let us praise God for tax collectors and tax payers, and at the same time agitate for an equitable tax system!

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