HOW do you pay your income tax?'' our friend asked rhetorically, and after a pregnant pause announced, ''With honesty.'' My husband and I looked at each other. Just a couple of hours earlier we had been advised to hedge a little on our tax return. ''No one would possibly question if you padded your expenses a little,'' the tax consultant had said. ''You've kept them so low.'' His argument had sounded so plausible and the action justifiable. It didn't seem fair to be penalized for being economical, perhaps even sacrificing.
Yet our friend said our taxes were paid with honesty. And frankly, right then that was all we had to pay them with. We did have that God-given moral quality. We had a spiritually based resource that could not be wasted or even inadequate. A resource that would grow with use and always be available to be drawn upon.
Not too long afterward we realized that our friend, who knew nothing of our financial circumstances, was God's means for leading us away from temptation. We didn't cheat on our tax return; somehow we paid those taxes.
And we learned two important spiritual lessons: God not only meets one's needs, but this divine power is always present to lead one away from temptation. We had a defense against the expediency that would ultimately rob, as surely as we had whatever we needed to meet legitimate needs. The Psalmist sang, ''I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.'' n1
n1 Psalms 37:25.
Righteousness, purity, honesty, indicate not merely the absence of wrong. They are spiritual forces that provide for mankind's needs. ''Honesty is spiritual power,'' writes Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science. ''Dishonesty is human weakness, which forfeits divine help.'' n2
n2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures p. 453.
Our gratitude for being led away from the temptation to cheat on our income tax has grown over the years. For not only were we freed from a moral offense; we were protected from forfeiting divine help. Truly we proved the truth of our friend's statement. And this honesty, this paying of our legitimate tax, actually enriched us. For our financial condition improved from this point. It is honesty that pays your income tax. Succumbing to dishonesty not only robs others but robs us too.
Recognizing that daily needs are met by divine grace and by the living of moral qualities, we see how destructive is the indulgence of any immorality. The avenue of good is blocked. The need is to face temptation with integrity and spiritual power.
In First Corinthians we read, ''There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.'' n3 This assurance that divine aid is ever present to lead us away from temptation is one of the central Christian themes of the Bible. In the Lord's Prayer our Master, Christ Jesus, included the petition to be delivered from evil and from the temptation that would let it into our lives. Actually, this follows the petition for our Father to care for our daily needs, which rightfully includes the yearning that we not waste our divine inheritance.
n3 I Corinthians 10:13.
Temptation is ''common.'' And sometimes it seems enhanced because many people are facing the same situation at the same time - such as the need to file an honest tax return. Despite the would-be prevalence of the temptation, the Christ , the power of God reaching our thought, is ever more present. It is this manifestation of divine Love which reminds us that we are, in true being, His children, always subject to His care and governed by righteousness. When we discern our spiritual nature, the lure of temptation can find nothing in us to agree with it. Expediency is exposed for what it is.
Your and my standing up to the common temptation incidental to April 15 will make such temptation less ''common.'' There may even come a time when we'll have the opportunity to ask at the right moment, ''What pays your income tax,'' and answer with proven conviction, ''Honesty.'' DAILY BIBLE VERSE Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report. . . think on these things. Philippians 4:8