The other day the doorbell rang. Upon opening the door, I found two adorable girls, around age ten, asking me to support their cause by purchasing raffle tickets or magazines or some such. I quickly and forcefully said, “NO THANK-YOU!” and shut my cheery red door before they could even show disappointment.
This was out of character for me. I am usually the first to fork over whatever cash I have in my wallet to whatever good cause is placed in front of me. I always try and be as generous with my money as I possibly can be, which usually leaves me with no cash to give my teenager when she needs gas in her car. I tell you this not because I am patting myself on the back, but to illustrate the oddity of my behavior.
So why did I slam the door in the faces of two cute and innocent girls? They were raising money for the local public school. I am not opposed to public school but I notice that I become quite uncharitable when the public school kids come around asking for money. Why? It is because I have paid thousands upon thousands in property taxes over the years and never once sent any of my 4 kids to public schools. We have always paid extra for private school or homeschooled with no help from our school district.
So, to be honest, whether correctly or not, I see my taxes as a charitable donation for services I will never use. (I say the same thing about my husband’s gym membership.) And even more frankly, it took everything I had not to scream at children from the public school standing on my doorstep, “Do I not pay taxes? Is that not enough?!”
And then I realized in that shameful moment I had become Ebenezer Scrooge, uncharitable in wallet, uncharitable in mind, and uncharitable in spirit. I might as well have screamed, “Are there no prisons?… And the Union workhouses? Are they still in operation?… The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?… I help to support the establishments I have mentioned—they cost enough.” (I like to think I would never get to “decrease the surplus population” part.)
The other day was not the only time you could have called me Ebenezer. I have lived in places with high tax rates, both income and sales tax and in places with lower tax rates. I found my “Ebenezer Factor” was directly proportional to the tax rate. And in a completely non-scientific study, I found the “Ebenezer Factor” of my neighbors to follow the same trend. The higher the tax rate, the more my neighbors found excuses to leave the problems of the less fortunate to the government.
Taxes are a necessary evil. They are pernicious in the sense that they make us less charitable; allowing us to delegate to the government what should be our personal responsibility to take care of the less fortunate. A responsibility our Savior instructed us to never shirk.
And while there are plenty that think that more taxes means more help for the poor and a better, more charitable society, I disagree. Charity is not simply about helping those in need but opening our hearts and giving. An act that is as critical for the soul of the giver as it is for the physical need of the recipient. I have found that an uncharitable wallet leads to an uncharitable spirit. Through personal experience, I am convinced more taxes mean less charity and charity is a virtue our modern world sorely needs.
Rebecca Taylor blogs at Mary Meets Dolly