A Taxing Challenge
In my home Church, we are working through the book of Luke and this Sunday we were looking at Luke 12: 32-34, which reads:
“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out—a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
For most of us, the final phrase is very familiar, however the challenge of the opening verse is often forgotten and so it was with some irony that after looking at these verses, I went home and turned on the news. The key news report was on the Government’s motion, currently going through the House of Lords, to reduce Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, systems put in place for the poorest in society. The proposals would mean that as soon as someone earns £3,850 (rather than the current £6,420) their Working Tax Credit would reduce, which given the current National Minimum Wage means that only those who work less than 11 hours a week would receive the full amount, however given that currently you must be working at least 16 hours to be eligible, then no-one is likely to receive the full amount.
As a policy, therefore these changes contrast quite dramatically from the call to ‘sell your possessions and give to the poor’. As Christians we need to consider how we will be counter-cultural, how can we move from a culture that longs to hoard for a rainy day, but rather sell our possessions, even becoming vulnerable in order to give to the poor. This is more than just giving our loose change, but a sacrificial giving that is modelled by Jesus Christ himself.
It is no accident that this call to sacrificial giving is preceded by the statement that ‘your Father is well pleased to give you the kingdom’, as this giving of the kingdom was a sacrificial act, in which his Son was brutally crucified in order that we could be given this kingdom. If we are the recipients of such a wonderful gift, then surely we should take seriously this challenge of sacrificial giving to the poor.