In the life of the church, y’all matter more than you matter but y’all only matters when you find your place in y’all.
Emotion is the raw material of what we are capable of thinking. No matter how grand a thought we have of a castle, what we are capable of building will differ drastically if the raw materials are sand, wood, or stone. Denying the feelings that underlie our thoughts does no more good than living in a castle made of sand.
Why do we tax personal incomes rather than simply business outcomes (labor and profit)? The most intractable problems of the tax system seem tied to the choice of taxing income rather than outcome.
Those problems are:
1) Income tax means a tax is taken out of “my money” that “I deserve.”
– Whether it is fair or not to complain, human psychology necessarily places a different value on the money we consider to be our own as opposed to the money we see flowing through a business setting. Why not instead tax the impersonal business machines on the money they pay to ensure workers work, and remove any personalization of whose money is taken? If businesses want to incentivize the outcome that workers work by paying them, tax the business not the worker.
2) Income tax disproportionately affects poor and uneducated laborers.
– Those who don’t know the system well and cannot afford help are not able to take advantage of even the benefits specifically available for them. Those who must work multiple jobs to make ends meet may not have the time to maximize deductions even if they have the knowledge of deductions and skills to do the work. Why not instead tax the business itself so that businesses can hire the best minds to maximize profits and align incentives? There is no benefit to taxing those least equipped to work within the system; doing so is, in practice, a disproportionate tax on those without resources simply because they lack resources.
3) Individual lives are too chaotic and inconsistent to be affected consistently by any tax plan. Business systems are dispassionate and far more stable institutions capable of being guided by directed by policy direction.
– Individuals quickly have to make cost benefit decisions based on rapidly changing factors and without ever knowing when a life changing accident or job change might occur. There is no effective way through tax policy to shape personal decision making regarding the value of the next dollar earned. Business systems don’t make value judgments and necessarily tend toward profit production in a capitalist society. Businesses are capable of long term forecasting and factoring in the multiple competing outcomes of various decisions and at the same time are almost always immune from a single event or decision resulting in an insurmountable obstacle to doing business. If the government desires any role in shaping acceptable long term forms of business, it would be far more effective to incentive businesses through taxes and deductions than to think that there could be any consistent outcome from taxes and deductions applied to individuals. Put differently, the government does little to shape societal outcomes through structuring personal income taxes and deductions, but could be a great deal more effective by applying such a system with regard to business systems.
To say the New Testament matters and the Old does not is about like saying that your parents matter but your grandparents don’t. It is entirely nonsensical to make that claim. Not only would your parents, and thereby you, not exist without your grandparents, but so much of why your parents are the way they are comes from their parents. That is usually true in a variety of ways even if those parents weren’t around.
We are who we are made to be long before we have any influence or response to the stories that write us. Only then do we get to accept or reject various parts of those stories and begin writing our own. In the same way, the New Testament is what it is precisely because it is born out of the Old Testament story and only then begins to push that story in a new direction.
Matthew 5:18 – “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the moral law until all is accomplished. But good news – I’ve already fulfilled all that tedious civil and ritual stuff, so you can ignore it.” – Jesus 🎉 (apparently)
The task of theology is always to point from where we are to where God stands. In what we say and do we seek to catch a glimpse of the reality of God so that our journey in faith might take us closer to the source of life. The problem is that the world beneath our feet is constantly shifting in ways that we cannot fully understand. Pointing to God is like aiming a golf ball off a boat that’s floating down river in and out of the fog – you may have just the right aim to start, but that aim can never be set in stone as long as the river flows. When the river moves fast, your shot can easily wind up in the bunker in just the amount of time it takes to complete your swing. When the fog is dense enough, you can’t even tell if the boat has moved at all.
It is deeply problematic to say that we shouldn’t care about shifts in culture and we should simply hold scripture to be our anchor in the midst of life. We are often pushed by culture in ways we cannot know and to an extent that we cannot define. As we are pushed, the way we talk about God has to shift or else our aim will be off without our awareness that we have in fact changed. Even the most faithful efforts to keep scripture as the sole foundation of our faith will fall short simply by the fact that we don’t know ourselves well enough to recognize if we’re still pointed in the right direction or if the boat beneath our feet has moved. We need God to constantly reveal Himself to us like a break in the fog that keeps us aimed not towards words of scripture but towards the Word revealed through scripture.
To believe Christ is to experience the love that embraces all our imperfections and will never let go. Propositional knowledge can articulate that experience or distract from it, but can never mean anything apart from the life and community that embodies the meaning of its claims.