God’s Freewill Offering to Tim Tebow—and to Us

God’s Freewill Offering to Tim Tebow—and to Us

The difference between taxes and charity is the difference between compulsion and free will. Taxes impinge on our ability to give. The state takes the first bite out of our paychecks, reducing the amount from which we can give to the Red Cross or our church or our niece on her birthday.

Never mind that you would give to the local Catholic hospital but can’t because the state has squeezed you dry to fund, among other things, the public hospital. If you want to give to the public hospital, you can’t do even that, any more than you can give twenty dollars to a panhandler if before you can reach for your wallet he’s pulled out a gun and held you up.

You could argue that taxation is only the state enforcing a minimum standard of generosity, but coerced virtue is as much an oxymoron as is coerced religion: Under threat of the lash, you might mouth the words of a creed, but if you don’t mean them . . . Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

Of course, many of us do believe in the roads and the bridges, the schools and the armies that the state compels us to pay for—and believe, with some justification, that they trump the principle that to give is more blessed than to receive and that to be deprived of that blessing is an injustice, or at any rate a misfortune.

As is neglect of the needy. In its most benign form, taxation is the surest method for ensuring that an otherwise homeless child is sheltered, clothed, fed, and schooled. It removes the risk that he would languish because his neighbors failed to step up to take care of him.

Taxation, then, is our concession to our fallen nature. It’s provisional, a necessary evil that we commit, and submit to, in order to prevent or at least mitigate the possibility of greater evils during this interim between our expulsion from Eden and our induction into the New Jerusalem.

Problems ensue when we forget that. Taxes, no matter how fair, are artificial. They’re substitutes for charity and goodwill—for love, really—and not vice versa.

Assumptions to the contrary bleed over into our spiritual lives: “If I tax God with my prayers, he’ll pay me, right?” Maybe, maybe not. And when he does decline to pay out, do you blame him?

This train of thought has been running through my mind the past few weeks as I watched Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos enjoy some improbable wins mixed in with some flat performances and a couple of blowout losses. Did God intervene in the wins? I think he did, though I couldn’t prove it any more than you could prove that your favorite sweater is a gift from your friend.

Scoffers enjoy the thought that God abandoned Tebow against New England on Saturday. Their error is in thinking that God was being a delinquent taxpayer rather than a doting father who likes to give things to his sons and daughters but keeps them guessing a little to preserve their capacity for wonder and surprise. It’s his way of reminding us that he has free will too: He doesn’t have to intervene. Were it otherwise, we would soon begin to consider answered prayer a law of nature. And miracles, those rare events on which we discern God’s astonishing fingerprints, would consist of disappointments that we would dread all the more because they would now seem fraught with dire significance.

Throughout the season, God showered his son Tim Tebow with little presents, tokens of his presence. The theological term of art for that is grace. Though half of us may deny it, we enjoyed the grace vicariously.

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Image: arkorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 
 

About the Author

Nick Frankovich is an editor for Servant Books, an imprint of Franciscan Media. His favorite book in the Hebrew Bible is Genesis; in the New Testament, the Gospel of John. His favorite novel is The Great Gatsby. His favorite team is the Cleveland Indians.
 
 
 
  • Herb Baldwin

    `….
    This train of thought has been running through my mind the past few weeks as I watched Tim Tebow and
    the Denver Broncos enjoy some improbable wins mixed in with some flat
    performances and a couple of blowout losses. Did God intervene in the
    wins? I think he did, though I couldn’t prove it any more than you could
    prove that your
    favorite sweater is a gift from your friend.

    Scoffers
    enjoy the thought that God abandoned Tebow against New England on
    Saturday. Their error is in thinking that God was being a delinquent
    taxpayer rather than a doting father who likes to give things to his
    sons and daughters but keeps them guessing a little to preserve their
    capacity for wonder and surprise. It’s his way of reminding us that he
    has free will too: He doesn’t have to intervene. Were it
    otherwise, we would soon begin to consider answered prayer a law of
    nature. And miracles, those rare events on which we discern God’s
    astonishing fingerprints, would consist of disappointments that we would
    dread all the more because they would now seem fraught with dire
    significance.

    Throughout the season, God showered his son Tim Tebow with little
    presents, tokens of his presence. The theological term of art for that
    is grace. Though half of us may deny it, we enjoyed the grace vicariously. ….’

    Really ….!

    hjb

  • Nicholas Frankovich

    What a mysterious comment, Herb. I don’t know what your thought is. I’d be interested to read it.

  • BlueBuckeye

    Very nice post Mr. Frankovich, I would submit that taxes may
    be a forced giving, versus free will charity, but worthy if used wisely and in
    a benevolent manner.  Beyond
    infrastructure, education and safety, taxes have the potential to provide a
    real and equitable service to society in a way that the free market cannot,
    without the need to profit.

    And the (sad) need to enforce a minimum standard of generosity
    for society is a (even sadder) consequence of our own greed and corruption.  There simply are too few Walter Buffets and
    Bill Gates to effectively provide the needed minimum level of generosity
    needed.  Thus, I would agree that
    taxation “is our concession to our fallen nature” but not “a necessary evil”.

    Rather, taxation is man’s attempt to share God’s graces in a
    material sense.  An attempt to ensure, as
    you note that a homeless child is sheltered, clothed, fed and schooled.

     So efficiency and efficacy
    are legitimate gripes against government and taxing, tarnishing the good that
    can come from these graces if only those providing the graces were free from
    their own vices.  But counting on free
    will generosity as a substitute is surely not a panacea.  And still there needs to be a mechanism for
    efficient and effective delivery of services, managed by god-like individuals.

    One, albeit a skeptic like me, might say that Tim Tebow is
    simply another gifted man playing football on Sunday afternoon.  He is paid highly for his services and he
    sometimes earns his keep while on other occasions he appears to be a welfare recipient
    that “receives hard earned tax dollars to do nothing”.

    God’s graces, like so many other athletes, were bestowed
    upon Tim at birth, and he managed to effectively put his talents to good
    use.  Over the past season, I would not
    believe that there was any level of divine intervention to assist Tim or any
    other athlete.  But He may be watching
    each Sunday, over a bowl of Doritos and a chilled bottle of Holy Moses from
    Great Lakes Brewery, to see how all of His children perform.