Tuesday, September 30, 2003

The Second Mile

A while ago I was reading a book by theologian F.F. Bruce, who was discussing Jesus' command that, "If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles."

Bruce said Jesus probably had Roman soldiers in mind when he gave this command; they got tired of toting their packs and recruited people by the wayside to carry them for a mile. But how, Bruce asks, might that command be obeyed today?

What if, he suggests, a "Christian taxpayer, as an act of grace, pays double the amount demanded, or at least adds a substantial amount to it: what then? The computer would probably record it as tax overpaid, and the surplus would come back to him as a rebate."

Bruce's point is that "going the extra mile" requires thought, which is no doubt true, but his example raises another point:

Why shouldn't there be a line on our tax forms that allows us to give a bit extra?

I can hear the laughs. I can see the big bold zeros plugged in on that line. I can read the obscenities that start in the blank space and meander up the margin of the form. I can imagine the stapled-on diatribes. But I can also imagine that some, out of grace or gratitude, will add a few more dollars.

I don't imagine this would be a huge amount of extra money for the government, but I suspect it would be better than any poll in answering the question, "How do you think your government is doing?"

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