Your Strongest Tool to Make Sure Your Life Counts for Eternity

Paul also compared life to running a race. (U.S. Air Force/Tech Sgt. Daylena S. Ricks)

On November 2,, the Chairman of the House Ways and Committee unveiled his committee's tax reform recommendation. The final version, if it passes both houses, is likely to have significant changes. In a recent report, the Tax Foundation gave details and analyzed the "2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act."  Below is a list of few of the major details in the report.

A. Individual Income Taxes

  • Increases the standard deduction from $12,700 to $24,400 for married couples and from $6,350 to $12,200 for single filers
  • Reduces the number of income tax brackets from seven to four
  • Increases the child tax credit
  • Retains the itemized deduction for charitable contributions, mortgage interest, and state and local taxes but with caps and limitations
  • Eliminates most other itemized deductions

B. Business Taxes

  • Reduces the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent
  • Taxes pass-through income (unincorporated small businesses) at a maximum 25 percent rate
  • Eliminates the corporate alternative minimum tax
  • Allows expensing for most capital investment
  • Places limits on the deductibility of interest expense on future loans
  • Creates a territorial tax system like most of the world
  • Allows repatriation of corporate deferred profits abroad at reduced rates

C. Eliminates the Federal Estate Tax  

Accounting for growth from the reforms, the Tax Foundation estimates that GDP will be 3.9 percent higher, wages will be 3.1 percent higher, and 975,000 full-time equivalent jobs would be created in the long run. Out of the 35 OECD nations, the Tax Foundation projects the proposal would improve U. S. international tax competitiveness; improving the U. S. rank from 30th to 21st overall and from dead last to 15th with our corporate taxes.

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Impacts of the changes will vary by state—depending on the state's tax structure and the size of their respective economies. According to a Tax Foundation analysis by state, California is expected to gain the most jobs (111,108) and Wyoming is expected to gain the fewest (1,893). Median household income gains are expected to be the highest in New Hampshire ($3,355) and the lowest in West Virginia ($1,952).

In a 1789 letter, Benjamin Franklin wrote that "...nothing is said to be certain except death and taxes." Some may quibble whether taxes are certain, but few would argue that physical death is inevitable. Science and today's culture are continually striving to extend life through sometimes extreme fitness, extreme nutrition and even cryonics (freezing of bodies in the hope that future medical advances will allow the body to come back to life).

Christians should treat our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit, but we should not fear death. For a believer, death is merely a transition from an earthly life with hardships and tears, to being eternally present with the Lord.

"What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own?" (1 Cor. 6:19).

"Truly, truly I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24).

"Instead, I say that we are confident and willing to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8).

Perhaps as Christians, we should think about our deaths more often. We are told to number our days. We also know the number of our days are determined. Would thinking about our physical death help us to love more, be bolder, live in a more holy way, exercise our faith and concentrate our lives on more kingdom significant activities? Our salvation does not depend on our works. But there will be rewards in eternity.

"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom" (Ps. 90:12).

"Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with You" (Job 14:5a).

The writer of Hebrews compared life to running a race. As we run (not walk or jog) our race, we should remember that we are cheered on by many witnesses. We are told to

  • lay aside every weight,
  • lay aside every sin,
  • run with endurance, 
  • look to Jesus seated at the right hand of the throne of God,
  • look to Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith and
  • look to Jesus as our example.

"Therefore, since we are encompassed with such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. Let us look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God" (Heb. 12:1-2).

We are in a competition. We are also told to: 

  • exercise self-control in all things,
  • keep our eyes on our incorruptible crown,
  • run with certainty (not in unbelief and doubt),
  • focus on results (not as one beating the air) and
  • keep our bodies in subjection.

"Do you not know that all those who run in a race run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain it. Everyone who strives for the prize exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible one. So, therefore, I run, not with uncertainty. So I fight, not as one who beats the air. But I bring and keep my body under subjection" (1 Cor. 9:24-26).

If we knew when we were going to die, would we do things differently today?  We are going to die. Not knowing when gives urgency to our actions today.

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.

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