The Value of Honesty
IT was understood when I took the job that my wages would not be reported for taxation. Since this is a fairly common practice for the kind of work I was doing, I didn't think much about it at first. I accepted payment in cash and payed my bills in cash. Since I was a student, and my major living expenses were provided with the job, I did not believe that this would ever be questioned or pose serious consequences.
The arrangement first became inconvenient, however, when I wanted to make a moderately large purchase by mail. I felt uneasy about depositing the amount of money in my checking account since I was claiming no substantial source of income. I began to see that this was a more serious issue than I had thought. Gradually, the ``solutions'' to the ``inconveniences'' of one sort or another became commonplace. The arrangement that had involved what seemed like a minor, almost expected, evasion of taxes was leading me into a dishonest pattern of behavior that was affecting my whole life. I was definitely not comfortable with the way even the most mundane transactions had to be handled so that my income could not be traced. I was beginning to feel like a fugitive. The money I was ``saving'' was no longer worth the price.
But I felt trapped. I had signed a contract with my employers, knowing full well what the arrangements were. Although I now wanted to live more honestly myself, I also believed in the work that I was doing and wanted to complete it. What could I do?
Since I had first taken the job, I had begun to study Christian Science. I had heard friends who were Christian Scientists talk about turning prayerfully to God for solutions when financial difficulties had become especially challenging. I found tremendous courage in what they had to say, and felt confident that because God, Truth, was the basis of my desire to live more honestly, I could not be hurt for doing what I knew was honest and right.
In this situation the contrary evidence did seem daunting. The only option I could see was to declare myself self-employed, working under contract. That would, however, require paying a sum of money that I had simply not set aside for this purpose. But by this time I realized the value of the freedom that I knew would result from living in accord with the law.
In the Bible the Gospel of Luke includes the story of a man who, like myself, changed his mind about what he thought he could gain by being dishonest. His name was Zacchaeus. Whereas I had been trying to avoid paying taxes I honestly owed, Zacchaeus was a collector of taxes who was believed to have become rich by habitually overcharging and keeping the difference for his own gain. He had heard about a certain Jesus Christ of Galilee, and when it was rumored that Jesus was passing through town, Zacchaeus climbed into a tree hoping to catch a glimpse of this wonderful man. Like me, he must have felt the price of his own dishonesty in comparison with what he could see of the purity of the Christ, Truth, that Jesus represented.
Well, Jesus didn't just walk on by. He stopped, and the whole crowd with him. And he spoke with the very unpopular Zacchaeus. And Zacchaeus promised to give half his wealth to the poor and to restore fourfold anything that he had wrongfully taken from anyone.
Why did he make such a decision? What did he gain? Jesus' words show that he gained more than any hoarded wealth could ever give: ``This day is salvation come to this house'' (Luke 19:9). That meeting with Christ Jesus taught Zacchaeus, in very practical terms, the value of living honestly in the sight of God and in the company of townspeople.
For myself, I had become convinced that it was right for me to declare my wages as ``self-employed.'' I did not know where the money for the tax payment was going to come from. I simply felt certain that God would open the way for me to do what was right. I informed my employers and filled out the necessary forms.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, has a way of saying much in very few words. Her study of the Bible had convinced her that God does not work in miracles and special favors, but according to steadfast scientific law. ``Honesty,'' she observes in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, ``is spiritual power'' (p. 453). If the story of Zacchaeus didn't inspire that statement, it certainly confirmed it for me. And I was ready to stand on that ground.
Imagine my joy and surprise when, within a week, I received a check for some work that had been completed many months earlier and for which I was no longer expecting payment. The amount perfectly covered what I needed to send in my tax payment, plus a few dollars to treat myself to a nice dinner out. The date on the check and on the accompanying note told me that the steps needed to straighten out that old account had been initiated immediately following my decision to handle the tax situation with honesty.
This experience has since served as a foundation for an ever-growing list of experiences through which I am learning that a solid trust in God--in His law of good--is very safe ground.
Provide things honest
in the sight of all men....
Be not overcome of evil,
but overcome evil with good.