Easter, Death and Taxes

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Romans 6:23

INTRODUCTION: Today is Easter, Tuesday is tax day, and the title of our message is “Easter, Death and Taxes.” We will be looking at a number of Scripture passages which we will put up on the screen for you, but our main text comes from Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

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So, have you got your taxes done yet? They say there are only two things that are inevitable in this world: death and taxes.

The saying goes all the way back to 1716 in a book by Christopher Bullock called The Cobbler of Preston. (“’Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes.” Christopher Bullock, The Cobbler of Preston, 1716). Ten years later Daniel Defoe used a variation of it (“Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed.” Daniel Defoe, The Political History of the Devil, 1726), but it was Benjamin Franklin who popularized the phrase back in 1789 when he wrote in a letter about the Constitution: “Our new Constitution is now established, and everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” (Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789)

Some of us believe in death by taxes. I believe it was Will Rogers who said: “The main difference between death and taxes is that death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.”

So what does Easter have to do with death and taxes? The answer is: “Everything!” as will be clear by the end of the message today. We’ll get to Easter in a moment, but first let’s talk about these two great inevitables in this world: death and taxes.

I. The inevitability of death

First of all, the inevitability of death. It’s an uncomfortable truth that we don’t like to think about, but everyone dies. Some live long, some die young, but everyone eventually dies. Why is that? It’s not the way God created it to be. So what happened?

   A. Death began with Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden
      – Genesis 2:15-17, 5:5

When we look at the Bible we see that death began with Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. We read in Genesis 2: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’” (Genesis 2:15-17)

Adam and Eve were created without sin, but when they chose to disobey God in the garden, death followed just as God had warned them. Death was God’s righteous penalty for sin. Now physical death didn’t come immediately. In fact Adam lived much longer than we do today. But three chapters later we read the inevitable in Genesis 5: “Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.” (Genesis 5:5) Adam is the first in a long list of people in chapter five whose lives are summed up in a few sentences but they all end with the same four words: “And then he died.” (There’s one exception, Enoch, but that’s a story for another day.)

So that’s where death began. Death began with Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden.

   B. We all sin without exception
      – Psalm 51:5; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23

But it doesn’t stop there., because Adam and Eve are not the only ones who sinned. The Bible tells us we all sin without exception. Romans 3:23 says: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Ecclesiastes 7:20 says: “There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) So we’re all guilty. We’ve all broken God’s laws. God is holy, and we all fall short of his glory. There’s something wrong with this world, and it turns out that it’s us!

Why is it that every human being sins without exception? The Bible tells us that ever since Adam and Eve sinned, we are all born into this world with sin. David writes in Psalm 51:5: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5) Notice David doesn’t say he had already sinned the moment he was born. An infant is not capable of sinning at birth or in the womb. But he does say he was sinful. He had a sin nature, which means that sin was already present in him in seed form and would result in sinful actions as he grew older.

We are all born with a sin nature, which means as soon as we have the opportunity, we will choose sin. We all sin without exception.

   C. We all die because we all sin (physical/spiritual/eternal death)
      – Isaiah 59:2; Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1-2; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

And that’s why death is one of the two inevitables in this world. We all die, because we all sin. Romans 5:12 puts it this way: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

Death has to do with separation, and the Bible speaks about death in three different ways. There is physical death, spiritual death and eternal death. Physical death is when your spirit is separated from your body. Spiritual death is when you are separated from God. Eternal death is when you are separated from God for all of eternity. Let’s look at all three for a moment.

Physical death is when your spirit is separated from your body. The person is there within the body, and then they are not. It’s very unsettling when someone dies. Somehow we know this is not the way it’s supposed to be. And so every culture grieves the loss of their loved ones. Physical death is inevitable, because we all sin without exception, and death is the penalty for sin.

Spiritual death is when you are separated from God. The Bible tells us that we are separated from God because of our sin. We read in Isaiah 59:2: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2) Ephesians 2 says: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world.” (Ephesians 2:1-2) Spiritual death is also inevitable, because we all sin without exception, and sin separates us from God.

Eternal death is when you are separated from God for all of eternity. Whenever we speak of eternal death, it is a somber and sober subject. The Bible speaks of it many times and in many different ways, for example in 2 Thessalonians 1 which speaks of Christ’s return: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9)

We have seen that physical death and spiritual death are both inevitable. How about eternal death? Is eternal death also inevitable? Well, in order to answer that, we must first talk about taxes.

II. The inevitability of taxes

Once again, as the old saying goes, there are only two inevitables in this world – death and taxes. We’ve already talked about the inevitability of death. Now let’s talk about the inevitability of taxes. Now you might be thinking, “I don’t pay any taxes. I’m getting a refund this year!” Trust me, you’re paying taxes. Everyone pays taxes.

There are so many different types of taxes here in the United States: income tax, sales tax, property tax, gasoline tax, estate tax, gift tax, and interestingly enough, there is even a tax that the government calls a “sin tax,” a tax on sin. The term “sin tax” applies to items like alcohol and cigarettes which are subject to a much higher tax rate in order to discourage people from using them.

So everyone pays taxes. Taxes are inevitable.

   A. God tells you to pay what you owe
      – Matthew 17:27, 22:21; Romans 13:7

What does the Bible say about taxes? First of all, God tells you to pay what you owe. Jesus and his disciples paid their taxes. For example in Matthew 17 we read about them paying the temple tax. (Matthew 17:24-27) And in Matthew 22 when Jesus was questioned about paying taxes to the Roman government, he replied: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) The apostle Paul writes in Romans 13:7: “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:7)

And so when it comes to taxes, God tells you to pay what you owe. Don’t cheat on your taxes. Don’t lie on your tax return. Pay what you owe. Now that does not mean that you need to pay more than you owe. It’s okay to take deductions or take advantage of various legal loopholes that will reduce your tax burden. But don’t try to cheat the system. When it comes to taxes, God tells you to pay what you owe.

   B. When it comes to sin we owe a debt we cannot pay
      – Psalm 49:7-9; Romans 3:20, 6:23; Galatians 2:21

Now here’s our problem. When it comes to sin, we owe a debt we cannot pay. There really is a sin tax, and I’m not talking about the higher tax applied to alcohol and cigarettes. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) – physical death, spiritual death and eternal death.

Now you might wonder why the penalty for sin includes eternal death. Isn’t that a case of paying more than we owe? And the answer is no. It’s not a matter of paying more than we owe. Rather it is the necessary consequence of owing more than we can pay. We have sinned against an infinitely holy God, which makes sin an infinite offense, and only an infinite punishment can pay for an infinite sin. And we are not guilty of just one sin. We are guilty of many sins over our lifetime.

And so when it comes to sin, we owe a debt we cannot pay. We can never finish paying the price for our sin. Psalm 49 says: “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him – the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough – that he should live on forever and not see decay.” (Psalm 49:7-9)

Some people think you can pay the price for your sin by doing good deeds – that if you do enough good in your life it will balance out the bad and atone for your sin. But the Bible says you cannot cancel out your sin by your good works. We read in Romans 3:20: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” (Romans 3:20)

The Bible is very clear on this. We cannot pay the price for own sin. The apostle Paul says in Galatians 2:21: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21) Paul is saying if you could pay the debt for your own sin, then Jesus died for nothing. If you could pay the sin tax, then Good Friday was completely unnecessary. When it comes to sin, we owe a debt we cannot pay.

   C. The day of accounting comes for us all
      – John 5:28-29; Revelation 20:11-15

And then finally, the Bible tells us that the day of accounting comes for us all. Just like tax day comes around every year, so a day of accounting is coming for each one of us for our sins. Jesus said in John 5: “A time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29)

We read about the great judgment throne in Revelation 20: “Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it … And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books … each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:11-15)

And so this is our predicament. The wages of sin is death. We all die because we all sin. We owe a debt we cannot pay, and the day of accounting is coming.

III. The good news of Easter

Now at this point you may be thinking: “Great, I came to church on Easter and the pastor told me that death and taxes are inevitable – I’m going to die, and I have to pay the price for my sins. Don’t you have any good news for me?” And the answer is yes! Yes, there is good news for you this morning, because that is what Easter is all about. So let me share with you now the good news of Easter and how it solves our problem of both death and taxes.

   A. Christ is risen!
      – Matthew 28:1-10

The good news of Easter first of all is that Christ is risen. (“He is risen! He is risen, indeed!”) We read in Matthew 28 how on that first Easter Sunday:

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it …
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (Matthew 28:1-10)

The good news of Easter first of all is that Christ is risen. (“He is risen indeed!”) Jesus died on the cross. He was buried. And he rose again.

   B. Death is defeated!
      – John 11:25-27; 1 Corinthians 15:54-56

And that leads us to the second good news of Easter. Death is defeated! In John 11 we read how Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus died. And just before raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus told Martha these amazing words: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27)

When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he showed his power over death and dying. But when Jesus himself rose from the dead, he showed that he had defeated death once and for all. And that’s good news, because that means in Christ we too can have victory over death. That’s why we read in 1 Corinthians 15: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-56)

   C. The debt has been paid!
      – Romans 4:4-8, 6:23

And that leads us to the third good news of Easter. The debt has been paid! When Christ rose from the dead, he showed that he had paid the full debt for our sins at the cross. You can’t work for your salvation, but you can receive it by faith. We read in Romans 4: “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness … Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (Romans 4:4-8)

We looked at Romans 6:23 earlier which said the wages of sin is death. But now let’s look at the rest of the verse: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

There’s an old song that goes like this:

He paid a debt he did not owe;
I owed a debt I could not pay;
I needed someone to wash my sins away.
And now I sing a brand new song: Amazing Grace!
Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.

CONCLUSION: People say that death and taxes are inevitable? Well, not anymore!

You will still die physically (unless Christ returns first), but when you put your faith in Christ you are no longer spiritually dead, and you will never face eternal death. And you will participate in the resurrection from the dead when Christ returns and your body is raised.

And you still have to pay your earthly taxes (every year!), but when you put your faith in Christ, your sins have been forgiven because Christ paid the price in full at the cross.

This is the good news of Easter. Christ is risen! Death is defeated! The debt has been paid! Hallelujah! What a Savior!

© Ray Fowler

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By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org

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