Christmas, Taxes and a Heart for God

Photography ID: 166462566 Copyright: alefbet editorial use only
Archaeological site, City of David in Jerusalem, Israel on May 9, 2017

This blog article is prompted by a Christmas tax article. Yes, Christmas and income taxes go together. Who would’ve thunk it?!

In Luke 2:1, we read that Caesar Augustus sent out a decree for a census. It turns out the census was declared so that the Caesar could tax people. I didn’t know that before.

But that previously unknown fact (unknown to me at least) isn’t what caught my eye or what prompts this article. The article is also not about unjust taxes that burden the poor and line the pockets of the wealthy. Recollecting the census/tax at the time of Christ is certainly relevant and timely, not just because we are approaching Christmas, but for GOP tax bill that seems to be making its way to ultimate approval.

But that isn’t what really caught my eye either. That isn’t what prompts me to write. What prompts me to write this piece is the reference to a previous census and previous tax and the surprising and shocking instigator of that tax and the man of God who allowed it to happen – David.

We read in 1 Chronicles 21:1 that “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” Satan influenced David. The man after God’s own heart[1], the man who foretold and foreshadowed the birth of the Christ child who would descend from David’s own sacred lineage – one of the greatest examples of faith in the Bible – was  incited (provoked, stirred up, instigated – duped[2]) to take a census to impose a tax.

So, we need a little disclaimer here before going on. I am not suggesting that all taxes are incited by the devil, though I suppose someone might make a case for that. Just to balance things out, we find another example of a census and a tax in the Bible that was inspired by God.[3] This suggests that taxes, by themselves are not bad. Not all taxes are inspired by the devil!

I am also not commenting here on the present GOP tax bill. You will have to weigh it and draw your own conclusions.

The thing that caught my eye is that such a person as David, a man after God’s heart, was influenced by Satan.  So much for David’s sainthood!

Of course, we don’t have to think very hard to remember another little incident that calls David’s saintliness into question. There was that little tryst with Bathsheba, and that little thing about having her husband conveniently killed off by ordering him to the front lines of battle.

The thing that catches my eyes is how very “human” David was, even allowing himself to be influenced by Satan himself. And even though he was prone to error, God loved David and highlights David as a man after His own heart!

It was David who wrote Psalm 139. David knew that God knew his heart, inside and out. “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me…. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.”[4] David was who he was. He was transparent before God. There was no pretense about David.

We judge by appearances, but God judges by the heart.[5] We might have dismissed David in our self-righteousness, commenting something about him getting wheat he deserved when Saul and then is own son, Absalom, sought to kill him. David certainly did bring some of those things on himself.

Not too unlike us.

But God appreciated David’s heart, his desire for God, David’s unabashed forthrightness before God and man. Oh, that we would be more like David, not necessarily in allowing ourselves to be influenced by Satan, but in our attitude and posture before God. And the really good news is that we can make some serious mistakes, but God is always faithful and just to forgive and to restore us to Himself.


[1] Samuel the prophet told King Saul, “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him ruler of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” (1 Samuel 13:13-14) That man was David. Paul recounts David while addressing Jews in a synagogue one day: “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised.” (Acts 13:22-23)

[2] Sûth – provoke, stir up (incite) – like instigating people to violate conscience or turn against sound counsel, “duped” by a cunning person.

[3] Exodus 30:11-13 (“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord.”) and 38:25 (referencing silver obtained from those counted in the census that was used in the tabernacle sanctuary).

[4] Psalm 139:1, 4

[5] See 1 Samuel 16:71 Chronicles 28:9; Proverbs 16:2; Jeremiah 12:3 and 17:10.

Explore posts in the same categories: Bible, Forgiveness, grace, Holiday, Inspiration, Mercy

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