Watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special again last night with my youngest daughter Emmie (who thinks I am Charlie Brown), I was reminded again of how much impact the reading of the Luke 2 passage by Linus had in my life when I was a child. Even more, I heard a wonderful message on the passage taught by my dear friend and excellent Bible teacher Larry Voas yesterday. So, I suppose it is inevitable that I would share today a few thoughts about Luke's account of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed... For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:1; 11).
Every time I read this passage, the first thought that crosses my mind is that at the same time God was giving to the world the freest gift ever given, an earthly ruler was enacting a tax. Indeed, the Scripture was fulfilled that Bethlehem would be the Messiah's birthplace because of Caesar Augustus's taxation that required Joseph and Mary to travel there.
The truth shining forth from this passage is that there is only one ruler of our hearts and lives who does not view us as a means to His own ends. God does not need the human race. We fulfill no emptiness in Him whereby He must extract a pound of our flesh in order to be supplied, fulfilled, and happy (Acts 17:25). Thus, He will never "tax" us, that is, He will never in this sense mandate that we give Him anything.
On the surface, this does not appear to be true. The Bible itself commands that we give much to our Lord, including worship, trust, praise, thanksgiving, submission, obedience, and most of all, love. "Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name: bring an offering, and come before Him. Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness" (I Chronicles 16:29). We are to devote our very selves to Him - "Yield yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead" (Romans 6:13). How then can we propose that we are to give nothing to God, and that we actually cannot give anything to a Being who is without need or void?
"What hast thou that thou didst not receive?... He giveth to all life and breath and all things... Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which He hath given thee." (I Corinthians 4:7; Acts 17:25; Deuteronomy 16:17).
Unlike worldly taxation, God's economy requires our giving of that which we have received from Him. Be it offerings of the heart or the hands, our Lord supplies for that which He requires. We are stewards of His bounty, receiving from Him "life and breath and all things," and then being even more blessed as offerings flow from us through the motivation, leading, and enabling of the Holy Spirit. Again, God needs nothing we give back to Him, but rather fulfills the deepest need of our heart by empowering us to love Him as He loves us. And He thereby blesses others through us in a wondrous way.
There are no taxes in God's economy, and in our relationship with Him. In days such as these, this is a glorious thought. And in this Christmas season, as we rejoice in the birth of the freest gift ever given, Luke's account calls us to avail ourselves of our Lord's abundance far more than ever we have. Because as we receive, the gift will not rest in us, but rather flow through us in the fulfillment of His promise...
"He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water."
"Freely ye have received; freely give."