By Pastor Josh Bundy
In 1789 the famous Pennsylvanian delegate to the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin penned the phrase, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” It seems Ben borrowed it from a few earlier sources, but for those of us working out our life, spiritual life, and yes, our citizenship, in Eastern Pennsylvania Ben Franklin seems as good a place to start as any.
Today is – gag – Tax Day (very sorry to start with such an awful topic). It is a reality of life, whether in our economic system or any other, that some of what you make, grow, or earn is going to end up in someone else’s hands. We may stress about it, we may sweat it, we may save for it, we may just throw our forms back at the IRS and hope for the best…we might even get an extension! But one way or the other, the day comes, and the bill is due.
Now, as Christians we have great scriptural lenses to help us filter that: for instance, everything already belongs to God (Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 89:11), and you can’t take it with you anyway (Luke 12:15-21; 1 Timothy 6:7), and both the Old and New Covenants have provisions for giving goods and cash away to care for the needs of others who are not directly related to us (Deuteronomy 15:11; Acts 20:35).
However, I want to purposefully make a spiritual point by way of Tax Day that has in mind another of the most important days in the life of a person. The other half of Ben’s phrase is in focus, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” One of the great spiritual truths is that death is coming for each of us (Hebrews 9:27). Death, which is often personified in scripture as a great enemy (Revelation 6:7-8; 1 Corinthians 15:55), is unavoidable, powerful, and directly opposed to God’s good plan for life and flourishing. Death robs us of our loved ones, our future, and oftentimes our present peace and joy. Unlike Tax Day, death demands all. 100% of what we have goes to someone else. Death is the penalty we pay for choosing sin (Romans 6:23); and even those who have not made a personal choice experience death because it is the condition under which all of us are powerless.
It is no good to squeeze your eyes, clench your fists, or pour a stiff drink – one way or the other death will take his cut – and one improvement to Ben’s saying would be that death is even more certain than taxes.
But what is even more certain than taxes and death…is life. Hang in for a minute. Let’s think this through.
Taxes are mostly certain. I can at least imagine a post-apocalyptic scenario in which there are not more tax agents! (Yes, I’ve seen enough zombie movies and other dystopian tales to imagine this!) Death is even more than mostly certain; I’d say it’s 99.9% certain. Unless the Lord Jesus returns during our lifetime we are going to die. But what is 100% certain? Life. Consider the following.
1. Life precedes death. God is alive. He has been alive from eternity past. Long before his creatures could sin and die, life reigned. Before there was death there was life.
2. Life will exist after death itself has died (Revelation 20:14). See that? Let me say it again, the power that we know as death, and its companion Hades, will be destroyed by God. The life of God and those with him will continue, undying. So, life outlives death.
3. Finally, resurrection life is more potent than death (Hebrews 2:14-15). It is the undoing of death. Jesus, raised and glorified, will never experience the bite of death again. Its sting will sting him not again. Its pain will not hurt him again, nor any of us who are caught up in his life. Without him, death is a total loss. With and in Jesus, death is a lesser power that will be undone in our bodies by resurrection life!
So, Tax Day stinks. And death is a truly hard enemy. But they are not the most certain truths, far from it. Life will reign. Resurrected life is harder than death and more enduring. Choose life in Christ today as your hope, your focus, your joyful reminder that in spite of all we may gain or lose…in Him, life is the most certain truth of all (John 10:28-30).
Back to Ben’s quote one final time, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Do you see it?
“But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).