For Christians, the bottom line on the tax form is integrity.

An assistant pastor in Maryland was convicted in court several months ago on two counts: He was found guilty of an illegal kickback scheme connected with construction on his church, and also of failing to report more than $50,000 personal income to the IRS.

Such tax avoidance is clearly illegal. However, other practices in charitable institutions may not be so universally condemned, even though they are sharply criticized by the press. So Jane Bryant Quinn writes in Newsweek (Jan. 2, 1984), “When the Good Book enjoined the charitable to cast their bread upon the waters, whence it would return to them many times, no one foresaw a tax-dodging generation looking for returns of 500 percent. This is the season for donation scams.…” She goes on to document how nonprofit organizations become entangled in these abuses.

The accompanying cartoon from The New Yorker shows the extent of fraud connected with church donations, at least in people’s perceptions. What rationalizations do Christians go through in allowing themselves to “stretch the truth” about such gifts and their true tax liabilities?

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